Court and Voters Reject Challenge to Springfield Indoor Clean Air Act

When the voters approved the Springfield Indoor Clean Air Ordinance in April of 2011 – prohibiting indoor smoking in businesses – the opponents promised a legal challenge and a political challenge by going back to the voters with an initiative to repeal the Springfield Clean Air Indoor Ordinance.  In other words, they were pulling out the stops to get the Springfield Clean Air Indoor Ordinance overturned either by the courts or the voters.

Southern District

Patty Sue, a bar (Bar) asserted in its lawsuit that the 2011 Springfield Clean Air Indoor Ordinance was invalid because the Ordinance prohibited what state law on the same subject permits.  The Bar argued that the State Indoor Clean Air Act permits bars to post conspicuous signs stating “Nonsmoking Areas are Unavailable” and, having done so, no nonsmoking areas are available indoors under section 191.769(5) RSMo.  The Springfield Clean Air Indoor Ordinance absolutely prohibits smoking inside a bar.  The City argued and the Court concluded that the Ordinance merely regulated an area of law that the State Clean Indoor Air Law did not expressly regulate.  The Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District held that the State Indoor Clean Air Act when read as a whole, constitutes a nonsmoker’s bill of rights, and does not set a minimum right for a smoker, thereby allowing Springfield to enact further and more stringent laws. As predicted in my earlier blog in 2011 the challenge in court failed.

In addition, the effort to repeal the Springfield  Clean Ordinance by the voters through   an initiative the 2011 Indoor Clean Air Ordinance failed miserably by garnering only 36% of the vote while 64% voted to retain the Ordinance. Small wonder since the enactment of the Springfield Clean Indoor Air Ordinance one-year earlier indoor air pollution has dropped by 80% in Springfield.  This is significant because the EPA has determined that exposure to this kind of air pollution can cause heart attacks and  other negative health conditions.  Several recent studies, including one from the Institute of Medicine, found an average decline of 14 to 17% in hospital admissions for heart attacks within the first year among communities that implemented an ordinance for smoke-free workplaces.

Smoke Filled Bar

Why did the voters overwhelming vote to retain the Springfield Indoor clean Air Ordinance? Perhaps it was the realization that the quality of indoor air had significantly improved. Also, during the 2012 initiative the indoor clean air proponents worked very hard to their supporters to vote, particularly health care workers. Not to be deterred,  the opponents of  indoor clean air vow to take their case to the Missouri General Assembly. Isn’t time to accept the verdict of the voters and the overwhelming medical evidence that shows a smoke free work environment protects workers health?

Howard Wright@2012

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