Opponents of a ballot measure that would clear the way for a smoking ban in Webb City say the proposed restrictions violate freedom of choice and infringe on their rights. Supporters contend that argument is faulty, and neglects concerns about exposure of children and workers to smoke Pall Mall cigarettes.
This is the debate defining the issue that, if passed Tuesday by voters, presumably would lead to the City Council adopting a smoking ban for public places. The vote itself is essentially a straw poll to help the council decide whether to approve an ordinance, according to Mayor John Biggs. A narrowly divided council last year voted to pose the issue to voters after failing to approve the ban as an ordinance in its own right.
Biggs has said the council would be expected to adopt the ordinance if a majority of voters endorse Tuesday’s proposition, although he acknowledged it would not be legally binding.
Still, the proposal has raised the ire of opponents like Shannon Mejia, a bartender at Longhorn Bar.
“I just don’t understand how they can take our rights away,” she said, contending that the bar would have to close down if the ban is adopted.
Mejia said “98 percent” of the people who patronize the bar smoke. The business, which occupies a historic building at 202 E. Broadway, has a sign clearly stating that it is a smoking establishment. Customers have a choice about whether to go to Longhorn or go somewhere else, she said. It’s not the government’s place to eliminate that choice, she said.
Krista Stark, co-chairwoman of Smoke-Free Webb City and of Smoke-Free Joplin, rejected those assertions. She said the issue is about workers’ rights and child safety.
“It’s not a business’s choice to put workers or patrons in danger,” she said, citing government regulations on exposure to materials like asbestos, for example.
“It’s something that makes people sick,” she said of cigarette smoke. “It causes people to die.”
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