Voters Finally get to Decide on Controversial Smoking Ban

By Jonathan Cooper |

Published 04/07 2014 06:10PM

Updated 04/07 2014 09:46PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) It's a vote that has been months in the making.

There have been commercials and rallies.

And now the public will decide the future of a smoking ban in St. Joseph.

"If that passes, then the city would need to change their charter and implement it where it needs to be and all that," said Mary Baack-Garvey, the Buchanan County Clerk.

If passed, it would be illegal to smoke in most public buildings in St. Joseph and within 15 feet of an entrance.

The ordinance would not affect private residences, membership clubs that do not have employees present and the casino gaming floor.

That part of the language has been a sticking point for the opposition.

"The only comeback I ever get is because the other casinos aren't," said Scott Tucker, with Citizens for Fairness. "They'd be the only one that isn't exempt. My answer is why not? They always talk about St. Joe being the last, why not be the first to include the riverboat?"

Scott Tucker is the spokesperson for Citizens for Fairness, the main group opposing the ordinance. Under the proposal, electronic cigarettes would also be illegal to smoke in public. Opponents say it comes down to personal freedoms.

"We're doing the best we can to get our word out, we're going to scatch and bite to the very end of this thing and do the best we can and hopefully the American way can come through and we'll be victorious," Tucker said.

On the other side, supporters say the ordinance is a matter of public health and one that will move St. Joseph forward.

"For too many years we've been behind the times, it's just time to say it's time to move in the 20th century," said Dr. Maureen Boyle. "We're one of the last big communities in the state of Missouri to do this."

Smoke Free St. Joe has led the charge in favor of the proposal.

"I think when it comes right down to it, you can look at the data and pull out study after study that shows that revenues do increase in restaurants that do go smoke free," Boyle said.

Both sides revved up their campaigns in recent weeks, pushing their message online and on the streets of St. Joseph.

Now voters will decide.

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