Thou Shalt Not Smoke
January 18, 2008
by Bradley Osborn
OK. It wasn?t a finger of God etching the Decalogue into some Sinai granite, but word has come down from on high local cities that we should modify our behavior to protect the health of our fellow citizens. As the year turned, the number of municipalities in the Kansas City metro area that restrict smoking in restaurants and bars increased significantly. The mother city, however, remains smoky and is therefore setting a poor example in public health.
On Jan. 2, new smoke-free laws took effect in Leawood, Lenexa, Overland Park and Shawnee, Kan. These were added to existing bans in Fairway, Olathe, Prairie Village, Roeland Park and Westwood, Kan., and Independence and Lee?s Summit, Mo. (Not all of the smoke-free ordinances are 100 percent smoke-free, and after a Jackson County court recently overturned two citations issued under the Independence ordinance, there is concern that is unenforceable.) Some of the bans were passed by popular vote, others via council action.
The college towns of Lawrence, Kan., and Columbia, Mo., also have smoking ordinances. Indeed, entire states and countries now bar smoking in public spaces to varying degrees, including Arizona, Brazil, California, Colorado, France, Germany, Illinois, India, Israel, Ireland, Massachusetts, New York and the United Kingdom.
The current Kansas City, Mo., smoking ordinance mandates all bars and restaurants to be smoke-free once jurisdictions encompassing 85 percent of the metro area?s population (Jackson, Platte, Clay, Cass, Wyandotte and Johnson Counties) enact smoking-restriction legislation that includes bars and restaurants.
This 2004 city law bans smoking in most public buildings, but the 85 percent trigger keeps Kansas City bars and restaurants filled with smoke. Reaching this figure is unattainable, however, as the non-Kansas City, Mo., portion of the metro only accounts for around 73 percent of its population.
- A New Ordinance
In October 2007, Kansas City, Mo., Councilwoman Beth Gottstein introduced Ordinance 071066, which called for a public vote on Feb. 5, 2008, to replace the 2004 ordinance with a comprehensive smoking ban that did not exempt bars and restaurants. The City Council put Gottstein?s ordinance on hold repeatedly and long enough to effectively rule out a February vote.
Enter former City Councilman Jim Rowland and his committee of petitioners advocating for a public vote on a Gottstein-like ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces. Rowland?s committee had collected enough signatures on its petition to force such a vote, and these were submitted for certification Dec. 19. In early January, Councilwomen Gottstein and Cathy Jolly introduced an ordinance that called for an April 8 public vote on the Rowland initiative.
On January 14, the petitioners? committee rejected the City Council?s modifications to its plan, and once again asked that the original version of its smoking ordinance be the only one placed before voters. It is now likely that Kansas Citians will see both plans on the April ballot, and if both plans pass, the one receiving the largest number of votes will go into effect. A legal challenge might ensue, however, as this dual choice ballot option is highly irregular, and may not jibe with the city charter.
Effects on Business
Although the primary reason for favoring smoking-restriction legislation is improved public health, many people are concerned about its effects on business. Some Johnson County restaurant owners are contending that the bans that took effect Jan. 2 are already negatively affecting their businesses. And Independence has had a number of angry bar and restaurant proprietors in near-revolt. One commonly predicted result of a new Kansas City, Mo., smoking ban is that smokers who now frequent downtown establishments will head across the river to Kansas City, Kan., which has no smoke-free ordinance.
As an example of our city?s new downtown progressivity, several businesses in the Power and Light District will be smoke-free from the moment they open their doors. Reed Cordish, the Power and Light District?s vice president of development, says, ?It?s the decision right now of the individual operator, but many of them are making that decision.?
A stronger smoke-free ordinance would not only clear the air in bars and restaurants, but it would affect the aesthetics of those venues. The Drop in Union Hill would lose its row of cigarettes centrally located among the spirits, and its Marlboro Man print would be the only active smoker allowed inside. However, The Drop may add an outdoor patio for its smoking patrons, should a new law pass.
The Fox in Overland Park, Kan., is the only gay bar in the metro area now under a smoking-restriction ordinance. It?s still too early to assess the long-term effects of the smoking ban on The Fox?s business, but so far it?s a mixed bag, according to a bartender there. As a smoker, he opposes the oversight, but says that a nonsmoking environment does have some advantages. The Fox is preparing for renovations, and one goal of the planned improvements is to accommodate all of its customers, both smoking and nonsmoking.
It?s important to note that many bar and restaurant owners do not have the option of physically modifying their businesses. Ownership, financial, space and regulatory impediments abound.
- Liberty, Justice and Health
There?s no denying that smoking restrictions rile many smokers; the bans offend their sense of freedom. To some, the concept is un-American. Many smokers, however, understand the restrictions, and see them as reasonable. Still others don?t mind an incentive to quit the habit.
Restricting behavior bothers civil libertarians, too. But let?s remember, when you ingest, imbibe or otherwise consume most substances, you are taking those substances into your body alone. You aren?t forcing someone else to take part in your habit. When you smoke in bars and restaurants, you are forcing others to passively smoke. And it?s been proved again and again that smoking tobacco is harmful.
In 2006, the Surgeon General of the United States released a report that stated, ?There is no safe amount of secondhand smoke. Breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be dangerous.? According to an October 2007 report commissioned by the Pennsylvania Alliance to Control Tobacco, 1,771 casino employees in that state will die from secondhand-smoke-related illnesses in the next 40 years.
Secondhand smoke is estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be responsible annually for 3,000 lung cancer deaths, 35,000 to 62,000 cardiovascular disease deaths and 2,300 deaths from SIDS.
In the first year and a half after Pueblo, Colo., enacted a smoking ban in 2003, hospital admissions for heart attacks dropped 27 percent, while admissions in neighboring towns without smoking ordinances showed no change.
Where smoking would be prohibited: Restaurants, bars
and tobacco shops, including bars and restaurants in casinos.
Where smoking would be allowed: Casino gaming floors.
Where smoking would be prohibited: Restaurants, including bars within restaurants, and throughout the Truman Sports Complex.
Where smoking would be allowed: Stand-alone bars, casino gaming floors and tobacco shops.
LGBT Community Has Higher Smoking Rates
A 1999 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that teen LGBT smoking rates stood at 59 percent, compared to 35 percent for straight teens. This information was part of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, an assessment of factors that contribute to morbidity and mortality of youth and young adults. This assessment continues today as the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (2004-2006), but the Bush administration has sanitized it of its predecessor?s content on LGBT youth.
In 2005, Los Angeles County found that the smoking rate among LGBT persons there was around 30 percent, more than twice the rate of its general population. So Los Angeles County?s Tobacco Control and Prevention Project began working with the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center on the Last Drag campaign (lastdragla.com) to help mitigate this trend. The Coalition of Lavender-Americans on Smoking and Health (CLASH) initially developed the Last Drag protocol around the LGBT smoking population of San Francisco.
In 2006, the Kansas City, Mo., Health Department and the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Greater Kansas City (LGCCKC) partnered for the second time to do a survey that set a baseline health assessment of the Greater Kansas City LGBT
community. This one was called Check the Pulse, and it found slightly lower smoking rates than the initial study did.
That first survey in 2003, called Take the Pulse, showed that smoking rates among Greater Kansas City?s LGBT residents were about 38 percent; the smoking rate among the general population of Kansas City, Mo., at that time was about 28
The 2004 National LGBT Communities Tobacco Action Plan grew out of the cooperative efforts and similar missions of a number of groups with contributions from the Tobacco Technical Assistance Consortium. Among other goals, this action plan sought to establish a national LGBT anti-smoking campaign. The national rate for smoking continues to decline each year; in 2004, the rate stood at 20.9 percent. At current rates of decline, the public health goal of 12 percent by 2010 seems unlikely, however.
A Trend in Restaurants and Bars
Camp contributors Donald Pile and Ray Williams, the Gay Travelers, make these anecdotal observations about smoke-free legislation nationally:
In our travels throughout the country we have noticed a very popular trend: Both bars and restaurants are going nonsmoking. Some do so because of local or state laws, and others go nonsmoking on their own.
Since less than 25 percent of the general population smoke, business owners are finding that they need to cater to the 75 percent that do not smoke. Studies indicate that smoke-free regulations and policies have no negative impact on sales. Many people have simply stopped going to smoking bars for several reasons, including health and the fact that when they leave, their clothing reeks of cigarette smoke.
And now in the greater Kansas City area, city after city is passing nonsmoking legislation. It is really amazing to us that in our travels from coast to coast, Kansas City is one of the last of the large cities that has not stopped smoking in its bars and
We have talked to dozens of bar and restaurant employees who are so happy that their places of employment have gone nonsmoking. Many smokers are wonderful people, but they are going to have to learn that their habits should not affect everybody else.
How to Quit ? and Avoid Smoke
Many new options are available to smokers who want to quit: gums, pills, patches and even a smokeless cigarette that uses steam to deliver nicotine.
Clean Air Kansas City (cleanairkc.com) and the health departments of Johnson County, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., provide online guides to smoke-free bars and restaurants in our area.
The Fenway Institute of Boston, Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center have partnered to produce How to Run a Culturally Competent LGBT Smoking Treatment Group; it is accessible online.
If you?re tired of wandering in the nicotine wilderness, and would like to receive help quitting smoking, contact the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Greater Kansas City (lgcc-kc.org), or log on to Gay American Smoke Out (www.gaysmokeout.net) for tips. Breathe easy in 2008.
UPDATE: On January 24, the City Council of Kansas City, Mo., approved a smoking restriction ordinance that will take effect in 60 days.
The ordinance will ban smoking in restaurants without liquor licenses. Restaurants that have liquor licenses may allow smoking after 9 p.m. if all patrons are aged 21 or over. This action leaves on the April ballot only the petitioners? plan that would extend the ban to bars. If the petitioners? plan is approved, it would displace the Council?s January 24 plan.
Both plans prohibit smoking at the Truman Sports Complex, but allow it on casino gaming floors.