Judges upholds Springfield smoking ban

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Springfield’s year-old smoking ban is legal and does not violate the rights of bar owners to allow their customers to smoke, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.

Jean Doublin, owner of Ruthie’s Bar in Springfield, had sued after voters approved the ban last year, contending the city ordinance conflicted with state law on the issue. Her attorney, Jonathan Sternberg, argued that a provision in the state Indoor Clean Air Act of 1992 that allows bars and taverns to post signs “making non-smoking areas unavailable” essentially allows smoking in those establishments.

Attorneys for the city argued that the Springfield ban, which prohibits smoking almost anywhere someone works or the public has access, simply goes further than state law in regulating smoking, The Springfield News-Leader reported (http://sgfnow.co/KTaA2R ).

On Tuesday, a panel of Southern District Appellate Court judges ruled for the city.

The state law “is not a statute that was enacted to permit smoking or to protect the rights of smokers,” but instead is meant to prohibit smoking, the judge’s ruled.

Although Springfield’s ban is more restrictive than state law, it does not “prohibit what the statute permits,” the opinion says.

City Attorney Dan Wichmer said the judges’ decision affirms the city’s position.

“To us the state law was a non-smokers bill of rights and we were just furthering that law,” he said.

Sternberg said he will ask the Missouri Supreme Court to consider the case, but he’s not optimistic because the high court turned down his appeal of a ruling in a similar case concerning a Kansas City smoking ban.

Rep. Melissa Leach, R-Springfield, filed a bill during the last legislative session to exempt bars and some other businesses from smoking bans statewide. The bill died in committee but Leach has said she may file it again.

Springfield voters have approved the ban twice, once in 2011 and again this year after opponents successfully got it placed on the ballot again.

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

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