A group of Cape Girardeau restaurant and bar owners are continuing to organize their opposition to a proposed smoking ban, while those who want to see it enacted are standing their ground. The opposition group, which calls itself Stand Up Cape, What’s Next?, held an organizational meeting Wednesday night at Port Cape Girardeau, where members continued planning ways to convince voters to defeat the ban in April.
The ban would prohibit smoking Camel in all bars, restaurants, private clubs and the casino, if it is approved by city voters.
“We do not have much time,” John Pruitt, group organizer and assistant professor at Southeast Missouri State University, told the group. “This is going to happen fast.”
The group elected officers, discussed strategies and compiled a list of bar and restaurant owners who oppose the ban. The group intends to present the list to the Cape Girardeau City Council during its Monday night study session.
Those who oppose the ban have said that they believe business owners should not be told how to run their establishments and that there are many restaurants whose owners have voluntarily made their businesses nonsmoking. Some have also questioned how dangerous secondhand smoke truly is, saying that claims have been exaggerated.
But Breathe Easy Cape Girardeau doesn’t see it that way. Breathe Easy is the group that gathered the necessary petition signatures to get the issue on the ballot. Those signatures were certified earlier this month, and now the measure is likely to appear on the ballot in April.
Jeremy Barnes, a Breathe Easy member and professor of health promotion at Southeast Missouri State University, said to look no further than a 2006 report from the U.S. Surgeon General titled “The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke.”
“Cigarette smoke and secondhand smoke cause a lot of morbidity and disease, there’s no question about that,” Barnes said. “I don’t feel those reports have been exaggerated at all.”
That report says secondhand smoke kills more than 3,000 adult nonsmokers from lung cancer, about 46,000 from coronary disease and an estimated 430 newborns from sudden infant death syndrome per year. In addition, the report said, secondhand smoke causes other respiratory problems in nonsmokers such as coughing, phlegm and reduced lung function.
Barnes is not surprised there is opposition to the group’s proposed ban. He also doesn’t think the business owners’ claim that they can do what they want with their businesses is valid.
“If they have a business in which employees or the public is exposed to something that causes cancer, then it’s obviously a public health concern,” he said. “The business owners are regulated in many different ways in terms of what they can or cannot do, and I don’t see how this is any different.”
While Barnes lives in Jackson and won’t be able to vote in the election, he believes that is irrelevant.
“I’ve been a member of the community for 15 years,” he said. “I work in this community. This is not just an issue for people who live in Cape Girardeau or if you are a registered voter in Cape Girardeau. It affects everybody who works in or visits this community as well.”
Asked if he would like to see a smoking ban in Jackson, Barnes didn’t blanch.
“I’d like to see it throughout the nation,” he said.