Few Complaints on Washington's Smoke Free Act - The Missourian: Washington

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Few Complaints on Washington's Smoke Free Act

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Posted: Saturday, November 30, 2013 5:00 pm

Nearly a year after Washington’s smoke-free air act was adopted, few complaints have been made, no summons have been issued and residents and many business owners seem to be coming to terms with the new law.

The act was approved in January 2012 and took effect April 15.

Washington Police Chief Ken Hahn recalled one patron complaint came through city hall. After a visit to the business to remind them of the ordinance, there were no other problems, Hahn said. In all, the police department said there have been one or two complaints total.

Captain Ed Menefee said the first step is to warn the person in violation of the ordinance.

“We’ll usually give a couple of warnings before we look at a summons of any type,” Menefee said, adding that the summons could go to the violator and not necessarily the business where the person is in violation.

“We don’t have an influx of complaints or have to deal with it,” Menefee said.

Chief Hahn agreed and voiced his support for the ordinance.

“I’m extremely supportive of it and I think it’s worked well,” he said.

Joette Reidy, president of the Washington Breathe Easy Coalition, which helped pass the ordinance, said she’s only heard positive responses about the ordinance, including from wait staff at restaurants, restaurant owners and patrons.

Rick Marquart, who owns The Landing, a bar in Downtown Washington, said the smoking ban has been a nonissue.

“It’s really had little impact,” he said. “There have been a few complaints, but there’s been a lot of positive feedback. It hasn’t affected me in a negative way for sure.”

Patrons to The Landing can still smoke on an outdoor patio, in a designated area the required distance from entrances.

Contrary to what others led Marquart to believe, his business did not see a decline. In fact, sales continued on their one to two percent annual increase — which has been the trend for the past 12 years, he said.

Miller’s Grill owner, Christie Miller, made the smoke-free change before the ordinance was passed, but said it has been beneficial for her business and that she’s had few complaints.

Joyce Lara, who also is a member of the Breathe Easy Coalition and is the youth coordinator for Tobacco Free Missouri, also said she has heard positive feedback on the law.

“People have embraced it like this is the way it’s always been,” she said.

Complaints

One business owner, Lance Unnerstall of Town ’N Country Lanes, said the smoking ban has had a huge impact on his business and caused the migration of bowlers to Union — where they are able to smoke.

“I have no new bowlers, that’s just a fact,” Unnerstall said. “No one comes in the bar anymore, no one at all whatsoever. It’s a real shock. I definitely would attribute it to the smoking ban.”

Unnerstall said that fortunately, bowlers don’t blame him for the smoking ban.

And while the center has a lot of dedicated bowlers in leagues (though one team quit because of the ban), open play is down “tremendously.”

While the weather is warm, those bowlers will go outside to smoke. However, Unnerstall fears that winter will present a new challenge.

“It’s not like you’d walk into a cloud (of smoke) when you walked in here,” he said, adding that the filtration system kept the air “relatively smoke free.”

Unnerstall said he has heard compliments that the center smells better, but still hasn’t seen new faces.

“I don’t think this does anything in a positive manner to drive traffic to the business. And I don’t see any city council members or the mayor starting to bowl now,” he said.

Membership Club Feedback

Upon entering the Washington VFW, the smell of freshly popped popcorn fills the air.

Members, even some who smoke, said they support the smoking ban.

One smoking member, who didn’t want to reveal her name, said the outside smoking area is “accommodating” and she has fun with other smokers outside.

“Personally, if my secondhand smoke is going to kill somebody or make it worse on their health, then I’m OK with letting that go,” she said. She added that “whatever benefits the club benefits me.”

She and others said they’ve noticed a raise in attendance among nonsmokers.

“I love it. It’s the best thing they’ve ever done,” said Marilyn Welch, a nonsmoker who was waiting to begin a game of bingo.

Continue to Support

Reidy said Breathe Easy Washington will continue to support the city with enforcement and education of being smoke free, as well as the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Since Washington’s adoption of the law, she has continued to help nearby cities and share the steps Washington took to become smoke free.

“The day after the ordinance passed, my email inbox and facebook page were full of thank yous. I was thanked every single day for months,” she said. “But I always remind people to thank the city council members, Mayor Sandy Lucy, the city administrator, city attorney and the ones who really did the work in getting it passed.”

Reidy said Washington has one of the strongest and most comprehensive ordinances and other cities look to Washington when forming their own ordinances.

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