Statewide smoking ban proposed in Missouri

Smoking would be banned in restaurants, bars, casinos and malls statewide under a bill Missouri lawmakers introduced Monday.

Exceptions would include private residences, tobacco retail outlets, outdoor areas and up to 20 percent of hotel and motel rooms.

The legislation’s sponsor, Rep. Walt Bivins, R-St. Louis, said Missouri is surrounded on three sides by states that ban smoking: Illinois, Arkansas and Iowa. Kansas lawmakers are also considering it. Nationwide, more than half of the states have smoking bans.

To show the support behind the legislation, Bivins pointed to the support of the St. Louis County smoking ban, which more than 65 percent of voters supported in November’s election. That ban is slated to go into effect in January 2011.

“I feel like the time has certainly come,” he said. “I just think it will be good for the health of Missouri citizens.”

Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields said he didn’t think the ban would pass this year because it would hurt business and restaurant owners who are already struggling.

“Sen. Shields was talking about how it would be a detriment to restaurants but I don’t think that’s true,” Bivins said. “I often have to wait for a table in the non-smoking areas of restaurants.”

Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis, sponsored a smoking ban bill last year but it was never heard in committee and failed.

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