Greene Co. court upholds Springfield smoking ban

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A Greene County judge has upheld Springfield’s smoking ban, but a bar owner who sued to stop it is expected to continue the legal fight while other opponents look for a political solution.

Greene County Judge Jason Brown ruled Wednesday that the ban, which was approved by voters in April, did not violate state law. The ban, which took effect June 11, generally prohibits smoking inside any place where people work or where the public has access, as well as outdoors in playgrounds and other areas.

Jean Doublin, the owner of Ruthie’s Bar, sued to stop the ban, claiming it violates a state law that allows taverns to make nonsmoking areas unavailable indoors as long as signs are posted that say “Nonsmoking Areas are Unavailable.” Ruthie’s has such signs on its doors.

Doublin said Wednesday that she’s lost close to 75 percent of her business since the ban took effect.

Doublin’s attorney, Jonathan Sternberg, had previously said he would appeal if Brown ruled against his client. He had offered the same argument in a case that sought to stop implementation of a smoking ban in Kansas City. But the argument was ultimately struck down by the Western District of Missouri Appeals Court.

Brown wrote in his ruling that he doesn’t entirely accept the city’s contention that it has the authority to ban smoking, but felt bound by the appeals court decision in the Kansas City case.

Sternberg has said that an appeal in the Springfield case will go to a different appeals court, which he hopes will issue a different ruling.

The Springfield News-Leader reports (http://bit.ly/njXmNQ) that supporters of the ban said Brown’s ruling adds to growing legal precedents that allow cities to enforce a smoking ban.

“I think it’s a continued victory for public health, which is what we view this ordinance to be,” said Stephen Hall, communications director for the American Heart Association in Springfield.

Dave Myers of Live Free Springfield, which opposed the ban, said he believes the best option for doing away with the ordinance continues to be getting the City Council to repeal or amend it. The council is expected to take up proposed changes in November.

Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsky said any changes to the law wouldn’t have a unanimous vote required for it to pass.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com

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