Call it a sign of times to come.
A St. Charles County Councilman said he would bring an ordinance requiring bars and restaurants to post signs near doorways informing patrons whether the establishment allows smoking or not.
St. Charles County Councilman Joe Cronin, R-District 1, of St. Paul, said the sign ordinance is not a step toward a smoking ban.
“It’s a step toward a discussion. I think it will give people the chance to begin talking about it before a full comprehensive (smoking ban) ordinance is brought up,” Cronin said after the council’s work session Monday night.
He said it’s important to begin a discussion because St. Charles County eventually will vote on a smoking ban.
During the work session, Cronin told other council members that if they did not put a smoking ban on the ballot by 2012, someone would come forward with petition to put a countywide smoking ban on the ballot. That’s what happened in , he pointed out.
"Twenty-nine states and about 30 major cities have some form of smoking ban," Cronin said after the session. "It's coming."
A couple of council members spoke against requiring the signs to be posted.
“If it were a good idea, the proprietors would do it themselves,” said Council Chairman Joe Brazil, R-District, of Defiance.
“The anti-smoking zealots aren’t going happy with that,” said Councilman Paul Wynn, R-District 4. He said some people will still want to ban smoking.
“Tomorrow it will be French fries, candy or soda. The tragedies we’ve seen the last couple days show us that you can’t prevent bad stuff from happening to people,” Wynn said. “It’s the soft tyranny that CS Lewis talks about.”
In “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment,” Lewis introduced the idea of a “soft tyranny” and wrote: "Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.”
Wynn said that when the city of Brentwood passed a smoking ban,
“My Dad’s an alderman there,” Wynn said. “They’re in terrible shape. Now they’re not making enough money because everyone’s going to other American Legions where they can smoke, and they might close.”
The American Legion Post applied for an exemption from the Brentwood ban, but the aldermen denied the request.
“Here’s guys who fought for their country and they can’t smoke in their own hall,” Wynn said. Wynn emphasized that he is not a smoker, and is very much against smoking. However, he is very much for personal freedom, he said.
“My dad was saying, ‘These guys are heroes. How do I vote no?’”
Cronin said that his father-in-law is 92, and helped found the St. Peters American Legion.
“He can’t go at night because of all the smoke,” Cronin said. “You have a lot of older guys who can’t go because they’re on oxygen tanks.”
Cronin said the requirement to post a sign would not cost the county any money because the signs could be checked during regular inspections.
He said he got the idea from Lake Saint Louis Alderman John Pellerito, Ward 3, who drafted a similar ordinance in that city. Lake Saint Louis subsequently passed a smoking ban in the city.
“They didn’t have any problems in transitioning to a smoking ban,” Cronin said. He credited the sign ordinance with easing the transition.