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Smoking Ban Continues to Stir Controversy

The city council's decision Monday to adjust how close smokers can be to the entrance of a bar or restaurant brought forth new frustrations.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The idea of a smoking ban in St. Joseph has stirred controversy from day one. And, even after voters approved the ordinance and it went into effect business owners are still buzzing.

"I think it's gonna take your small neighborhood bars and completely dry them out of business," stated Dewayne Leer, owner of Uncle D's Sports Bar & Grill.

He's annoyed by the city council's decision Monday to change the distance a smoker can be from a bar from 15 feet to five feet.

"The city council was the ones who ultimately put the ordinance to the vote of the people so that powers the city council to have the authority to make changes," said City of St. Joseph Health Director Debra Bradley.

Bradley says council members can legally adjust the language of an ordinance if the changes are minor. Some feel that goes against what they voted for.

"The vote does count and that's why they say that council can amend the ordinance but stay consistent with the content of the law," added Bradley.

Some members of Smoke Free St. Joe, the group who pushed the ordinance forward, are speaking out. Dr. Jane Schwabe believes changing the distance was a compromise for bars, but she says it's disappointing.

"I think you can go 15 feet and not be in the middle of the street. You can go down the street and on the sidewalks. You don't have to go out in the middle of the street and pose a risk to your life further so I think that was just to be dramatic," added Schwabe.

Bar owners like Uncle D's say this change really doesn't make a difference.

"I don't quite understand why they did it. You're still gonna have non-smokers and smokers out there. I think there's other things they could have changed in the ordinance," added Leer.

Leer says the changes haven't impacted his business yet, but he thinks others will be hurt. Both sides do agree that the change will just take time to get used to.
 
"Change is hard. Biggest thing is gonna be peer pressure and it'll just become the norm. If we were to go a year down the road and look, I don't think it's gonna be as big deal as we think," stated Schwabe.

The city says since the ban took effect last Saturday, they've already had several complaints about violations. They're working with businesses to remind them of the changes.

The first offense for violators is $100.
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