Smoke Free St. Joe Enters Campaign Mode

Smoke Free St. Joe Enters Campaign Mode

The smoking ban will be on the ballot for St. Joseph voters in April. Smoking ban group says they will campaign.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) As soon as St. Joseph's City Council voted not to decide the proposed smoke-free ordinance, the grassroots group Smoke Free St. Joe shifted focus.

"We're organizing ourselves into a true political group," said Jane Schwabe, the leader of the group.

Smoke Free St. Joe spent months collecting signatures to get a proposed ordinance on the April ballot. Now, the group's message will go to the people.

"Our campaign is education," Schwabe said. "Our message is this ordinance and is about the health of St. Joe. That's what we want is protection as much as we can for all the workers in St. Joseph from second-hand smoke."

But the ordinance won't cover all workers in St. Joseph. The gaming floor of the St. Joe Frontier Casino is exempted from the proposed ordinance.

However, casino management has spoken out against the ban, saying there is trigger language in the ordinance that could make the casino floor smoke free at a later time. If that would happen, the casino says they could lose up to 30 percent of their business.

"The Missouri Gaming Commission can take a look at that and decide it's no longer financially feasible," said Jerry Riffel, attorney for St. Joe Frontier. "It can also look at the possibility of moving that casino."

Schwabe is cautious about the casino being against the ban. Smoke Free St. Joe exempted the gaming floor to try and avoid having the casino weigh in on the issue.

"It's always difficult if you have somebody who has deep pockets vocally against something. The bigger issue is to try and bring litigation later," Schwabe said.

A public vote is what some wanted in the first place.

"Let the people decide," said Joyce Starr, St. Joseph City Council member. "Everybody talks about how important that issue is. If it is that important, we should put it out and let the people decide."

The vote will be in April.

Several bars and restaurants are also expected to organize to oppose the smoking ban.
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