Monday, April 4, 2011

Cape Girardeau smoking ordinance to be decided Tuesday

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - You can’t blame the folks at Bingo World for feeling a little nervous. 

Listen to the story.

First came the news that a shiny new casino will open its doors in Cape Girardeau. Then a citizen’s group gathered enough petitions to put a smoking ban initiative on Tuesday’s ballot.

Steven Slaten, Chairman of the Notre Dame Bingo Committee is not optimistic about Bingo World’s chances for survival if the smoking ban passes. “There’s a potential that we could see a big enough loss in player attendance that I’m not sure if bingo will continue to be economically viable,” Slaten said.

According to Slaten, nearly 60% of Bingo World’s patrons sit in the smoking section. Many may go elsewhere if they can no longer light up in Cape Girardeau.

“I think we run a real risk of losing players because they’ll have the option of going to bingos in other communities that do allow smoking,” Slaten said.

If Bingo World were to close, it would mean a substantial loss to Notre Dame and the five other charitable groups supported by the hall.

“It’s a fairly substantial amount of money to each one,” he said.

A smoking ban would have reverberations beyond Bingo World. Owners of restaurants like Molly’s and Bella Italia, as well as bars such as Last Call and Rude Dog Pub, all oppose the ban and feel that this is an issue that should be left up to the business owners.

Doc Cain is the owner of Port Cape Girardeau. He helped organize opposition to the smoking ban initiative by bringing together a grassroots group called Stand UP Cape What’s Next?. He feels that restaurants and bars who currently allow smoking will feel a strong impact.

“There are negative effects to bingo halls that allow smoking, there are negative effects to private clubs that allow smoking and there are definitely detrimental effects to bars that allow smoking,” Cain said.

Cain feels that if the ban is imposed then places that have an outside patio will have an unfair advantage over places like Port Cape, which only offers indoor dining.

“When they talk about leveling the playing field, they say well if everyone has to smoke outside then every restaurant is the same. That is absolutely not true,” Cain said. “If you happen to have a patio attached to your business, like several do, then guess who’s going to get the business.”

Stand Up Cape spokesperson Don Greenwood believes this has been framed as a health issue but is really about property owners’ rights and the right to engage in a legal act.

“I’m not a smoker, I have never smoked cigarettes in my life. I don’t see this as a smoking issue at all, I see this strictly as a personal property issue,” Greenwood said. “I think we’ve lost enough of our rights over the last few years because of government regulations and I think that is the main issue here.”

The smoking ban ordinance was put onto the ballot by Citizens for a Smoke-Free Cape.

Dale Humphries, who is a member of Citizens for a Smoke-Free Cape, said at a debate last week that she believes that smoking should be restricted because it effects more than just the person smoking.

“Unilke many other personal behaviors this one impacts more than just the person making the choice,” Humphries said. “When people smoke in public places they affect the heath of everyone around them.”

When it comes to the dangers of secondhand smoke, Humphries feels she has the proof to justify the ban.

“Every major medical and public health organization agrees that second hand smoke is harmful. The scientific evidence is overwhelming, with hundreds of reputable studies stating that it is dangerous, including the US Surgeon General who has stated, and I quote: ‘There is no risk free level of secondhand smoke exposure, end quote’ and the only way to completely eliminate exposure is to eliminate smoking indoors,” Humphries said.

Some people do not like to call this a smoking ban. Sheri House, who works for the American Cancer Society and is a member of Smoke Free Cape, is one of them. She sees this as taking action for public health.

“We’re not asking people to stop smoking,” House explained. “We’re asking them to take a step outside and make sure all the air in the public places that everyone should have a right to go to is clean, fresh, and not full of cancer causing chemicals.”

One thing has been proven about this issue: Neither side is going down without a fight.

Cape Girardeau voters will make their on Tuesday, April 5.

Matthew Caldwell, KRCU


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