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Panel votes to keep allowing smoking in lawmaker offices

Panel votes to keep allowing smoking in lawmaker offices

January 11th, 2017 by Associated Press in Missouri News

Missouri lawmakers defeated a proposal Tuesday that would have banned smoking in all Capitol offices.

Smoking is already prohibited in hallways and legislative chambers, but not offices.

A House rules committee heard testimony from three high school students, Jefferson City municipal government and a representative from the American Heart Association. But the proposal didn't make it past the Republican panel, which defeated it in a 9-4 party-line vote.

At the hearing, students from Tobacco Free Missouri Youth urged legislators to acknowledge negative health effects associated with secondhand smoke and "set an example" for Missouri's youth.

Calvary Lutheran High School Senior Grace Thieme told the committee about her sister's severe asthma and the risk of exposure to secondhand smoke.

"We haven't brought (my sister) here in years because secondhand smoke triggers an attack, and her asthma attacks trigger a seizure," Thieme said. "It's hard to try to tell her how important our government is when we can't bring her here to show her."

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Jefferson City counselor Ryan Moehlman read a letter from Mayor Carrie Tergin urging legislators to comply with a municipal smoking ban inside buildings.

Democrats favored the smoking ban, noting that other public offices in Missouri prohibit smoking. Most presented the measure as a common-sense way to make the Capitol more compliant with city and state rules.

Republicans said the current rule allowing smoking in legislative offices was "adequate" to mitigate the effects of secondhand smoke, noting the risk is lower than it used to be. Rep. Warren Love from Osceola asked the committee to imagine meeting in the 1950s and 1960s.

"There would be spittoons or cigar smoking or pipe tobacco all over this room," he said.

The smoking restrictions passed over the last decades should be enough, he said. "Somehow along the line, people enjoy smoking so I say leave the rule as it is."