Challenges Continue Over Enforcement of St. Joseph's Smoking Ban

Challenges Continue Over Enforcement of St. Joseph's Smoking Ban

Some bars are totally ignoring the smoking ban. In other cases, enforcement is difficult because of a slow response to a complaint.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Many knew there would be challenges in enforcing St. Joseph's indoor smoking ban that went into effect in June.

But, in addition to enforcement issues, is a total disregard of the law by several businesses.

The job of making sure the law is being followed was handed over to the St. Joseph Health Department.

Environmental Public Health Specialist Thomas Beavers has taken the lead in investigating complaints and issuing tickets. It's much different work than his regular duties of inspecting swimming pools and hotels and checking homes for lead. The new duties have greatly increased his workload.

"I just wish people would stop smoking inside," Beavers said. "That would be the way to make this a lot smoother."

Beavers couldn't quantify exactly how many complaint calls he's received, only saying its several per week.

One problem he has with the calls is that often they come during off-business hours. Sometimes it can take him up to three days to investigate a complaint, long after the smoke has cleared the air.

"I ask if they are smoking," Beavers said, explaining the process of what he does when he's at the site of where a complaint has been made. "If they're actively smoking right then when I show up, current policy is they are written a ticket right then and there."

Several bars and restaurants are actively disregarding the ban, saying there's a loophole in an old 1993 ordinance making the new smoking ban invalid.

A couple of bar owners say they've been issued tickets but later have had them waived.

A former St. Joseph City Council candidate blames city leadership, especially city council.

"They clearly said they would represent what the people want," said Mary Attebury. "That's what they were elected to do. And they've chosen to allow others not to follow the law."

"It's a law," said Jane Schwabe, a leading supporter of the campaign for the ban through her work with Smoke Free St. Joe. "It's not anymore somebody's personal wish or if they didn't like what the vote was. It was a vote of the people and we need to follow the process for making sure those laws are upheld. I think it's time for the health department to step up their game and follow what the ordinance says."

Health Department officials say they will work on their enforcement efforts and begin night patrols, since many bars are open only at night.

Anyone that would like to report any suspected illegal indoor smoking can call the health department at (816) 271-4694

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