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Petition to Repeal Smoking Ban Submitted

A group has submitted a petition to the City Clerk’s office that aims to repeal the 2011 smoking ban and allow smoking in certain types of businesses again. KSMU’s Melanie Foehrweiser talked to people on both sides of the issue and has this report.

Dave Myers, Chairman of Live Free Springfield, says he understands that there are people who are fully in favor of the ban, but there has to be compromise.

“We are not repealing the smoking ban so that there can be smoking anywhere and everywhere in Springfield. We are simply returning to the 2003 ban which allowed smoking in certain places in certain instances and disallowed it at certain places in certain instances.”

For Myers and his organization, the need for the repeal is a matter of rights. 

“We feel that this is an infringement upon property rights, an infringement upon individual freedoms and liberties and we are… now we’ve…we believed that there would be negative effects and we are now seeing the negative effects.” 

Myers says some of those negative effects include businesses having to close down, and a downturn in tax revenue.

On the other side, Stephen Hall, spokesman for the American Heart Association, agrees that it is about rights... just a different kind of rights.

“It is about rights and it’s about the right of each and every person to breathe clean air that’s free of toxins and poison. We believe that at the basis of this ordinance is a protection of workers and worker’s rights.”

Hall believes that workers should not have to choose between providing for their families or protecting their health. As far as the negative effects cited by Myer, Hall doesn’t believe the smoking ban is to blame.

“It’s a challenging economic time for sure but it is simply incorrect to attribute any downturn in the economy to the smoke free ordinance. The smoke free ordinance is about protecting people’s health. When people can be productive and healthy, that can only be good for business.”

Hall also says that any repeal would have measurable negative effects, because smoking has been proven to cause heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and asthma.

Live Free Springfield collected over 4,000 signatures in two months. The group did not go door to door. Instead, it opted to petition passively by placing sheets in local businesses. Anita Cotter, assistant city clerk for the City of Springfield, explained the petition process. 

“If we are able to certify that petition, then at the 20 day mark, or whenever we certify it, whichever happens first, that will go to city council for two readings and a bill will go to adopt the ordinance as they have written the petition or it will go to a vote.”

If the issue is sent to a vote, it will be on the ballot at the next municipal election, which a release from the city says could be in June.

For KSMU news, I’m Melanie Foehrweiser.