A measure aimed at making St. Louis County the first one in Missouri that is subject to a casino smoking ban has not managed to gain enough support from the County Council to pass. The county’s health department, however, revealed that a new piece of legislation is still expected to add more limits to smoking in public.
St. Louis County brought the indoor smoking ban into effect in 2011 and casino venues have been excluded from it since then. However, earlier in 2023, some local health officials suggested removing the exception. In May, the proposed piece of legislation stalled as the seven-member council took the proposed measure into consideration behind closed doors. The spokesperson for the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, Christopher Ave, revealed that the casino provision gained no political traction among a majority.
A revised version of the bill, which seeks to keep the casino exceptions intact but is set to provide additional regulation to public smoking, was considered by the County Council at its regular meeting that took place on August 1st.
Under the provisions of the new bill, smoking will be allowed on half a casino floor only. The rule was brought into action, and then it was reversed following a series of public votes. Mr. Ave explained that the new measure brings clarification to the rules.
Some Smoking Rules in St. Louis County to Be Changed
If the proposed piece of legislation gets the County Council’s approval, smoking of any kind, including vaping, tobacco, and marijuana, will be banned from country property, both indoors and outdoors. The ban would basically mean that smoking will not be allowed at county parks or around county buildings, including the ones that are leased by the county.
Furthermore, the new bill adds marijuana to the definition of smoking and openly suspends it anywhere smoking is prohibited.
The director of the local health department, Dr. Kanika Cunningham, was willing to see smoking in casinos banned due to the health risks for employees. Her proposal gained the support of local health advocates but, unfortunately, the plan faced opposition from some councilmembers and the popular gambling operator Penn Entertainment, which currently owns and operates Lemay-based River City Casino and Maryland Heights-based Hollywood Casino. According to the opponents of the proposed measure, the implementation of a smoking ban in casinos would have a negative impact on their business.
So-called “pot lounges” that allow smokers to enjoy cannabis have not been included in the bill, but the piece of legislation does not specifically allow them either. This means that the leaders of St. Louis County will have to decide whether they want to create a legal framework to regulate this specific type of smoking lounges.
According to reports, the County Council could have a vote on the proposed piece of legislation as soon as the following week.
As mentioned above, St. Louis County became the first Missouri county to suspend smoking in casinos that have been excluded from the county’s indoor smoking ban since the measure went into effect in 2011. According to some, the exception has posed a serious threat to employers, employees and customers’ health.
Data provided by the health department revealed that about 15% of the adults in St. Louis County smoked in 2020, in comparison to 11% of the adult population nationwide.