CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) - A group that wants to ban smoking in public buildings in Cape Girardeau has neared its 3,000-signature goal to take the issue to the city council this week.
If a required 2,441 of those signatures are valid, the council will have 60 days to consider enacting the ordinance, according to The Southeast Missourian. If the council doesn't take action, the issue would be put to the voters, likely in April.
The ordinance proposed by the group called Cape Girardeau Breathe Easy would prohibit smoking in enclosed public places, including bars and restaurants. Violations would be punishable by $50 fines for customers. Business owners who fail to comply would be fined $500. Repeat offenders could lose their business license.
Fulton and Jefferson City passed bans on smoking in public places Nov. 2., and Columbia passed one earlier.
Patty Lou Mungle, who owns Patty Lou's Cafe, which allows smoking, opposes the proposed ban in part because she said it could hurt business.
"It's not right for us restaurant owners," said Mungle, who is a smoker. "It would hurt us if smokers stopped coming. We have plenty of restaurants that don't allow smoking already. For us, it would mean 25 percent of our business or more. I wonder if they've thought about that."
Missouri is considered one of the most tobacco-friendly places in the nation, according to a June study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which ranked states on their tobacco control efforts. According to that study, Missouri workers are more likely to be exposed to tobacco smoke than any workers outside Nevada.
Leah Wiggs, Breathe Easy's co-chairwoman, points to statistics provided by the Surgeon General's office that say secondhand smoke contains at least 250 chemicals known to be toxic, including more than 50 that cause cancer.
"We really don't see it as a rights issue," she said. "We're not against people smoking, just smoking where others have to breathe it."
Information from: Southeast Missourian, http://www.semissourian.com