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Smoking Ban Discussions

The ban on smoking in Springfield's public facilities is far from decided, as August 25th's Springfield City Council meeting demonstrated. Jeremy Elwood has this report.

Springfield City Council met Monday August 25th, and the hot topic on the

agenda was the proposed total ban on smoking in Springfield's public

facilities, including restaurants, bingo halls and bowling alleys.

Jack Horton, owner of Uncle Bentley's bar in Springfield, says the bill would

put him out of business. He says about 50% of his patrons smoke, and the ban

would drive away the majority of his customers.

He also says he knows that the council doesn't intend to put people out of

business, but that would be the result of the ban.

One of the major tasks facing the council in last night's meeting was to clear

up some of the misconceptions about an issue that has become convoluted and

confusing to many residents.

Three bills were presented at the meeting. One would allow an exemption to the

ban for any restaurant that could prove its revenue between July and September

of 2003 dropped 20% compared to the same time in 2002 : the so-called

"hardship exemption."

The second bill was the total smoking ban, proposed by Mayor Tom Carlson at

the last council meeting two weeks ago. The third bill would put the total ban

to a public vote in the presidential election of November 2004.

Ron Leone is the executive vice president of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers

and Convenience Store Association, which represents many of the gas stations

and convenience stores in the state. He says the issue shouldn't even be in

front of the council. It should, instead, be decided by free-market forces.

Restaurants aren't the only businesses affected by the ban. Bob Chancellor

spoke at the meeting representing the Sertoma Clubs of Springfield. He says

bingo halls, like the one run by the Sertoma Clubs, would be put out of

business for one reason: 90% of bingo players smoke while they play.

All these arguments have made for a difficult decision for the city council :

one that it might make as soon as its next meeting on September 15th. Jeremy Elwood, KSMU News..