Butt Heads: At the State Capitol, a Different Set of Smoking Rules Applies

When it comes to lighting up in Missouri's capitol building, nailing down the protocol is about as easy as pinning down a cloud of smoke. Different legislators give varying interpretations of the rules.

Here's the skinny: Puffing is prohibited in all executive-branch-of-government offices, including the governor's office, which shares some real estate with members of the Missouri General Assembly...who operate under a completely different set of rules.

A spokeswoman for the Missouri House of Representatives informs RFT that smoking is permitted in members' offices and lounges, including one directly adjacent to the House floor, as well as in a designated area of the Capitol's garage. Smoking is not allowed in hallways or committee rooms or on the House floor.

State representative Jeanette Oxford of the 59th District says she's been angling to change the policy — unsuccessfully.

A long-time asthma sufferer, Oxford says her attacks were under control until she was sworn in, in January 2005. "The first week I was in Jeff City, I started to have difficulty breathing. It got to the point where I couldn't walk down the hallway without sitting down to get my breath," says Oxford. "It bothers me that kids touring the Capitol see people smoking in what is supposed to be the seat of government, when all our other government buildings in the state of Missouri are smoke-free."

During late-night debates especially, smoke spilling out of the legislative lounge can get unbearable, according to other reps. "One night I came down with the worst sinus infection," reports Walt Bivins, of the 97th District. "Cynthia Davis tried to encourage our [Republican] caucus to limit the smoking — and I agreed with her — but that fell on deaf ears."

Meanwhile, on the Senate side of the Capitol, it's perfectly OK to smoke in one's office, but nowhere else.

And for a man named John Britton, none of the above rules apply.

Britton, a long-time tobacco lobbyist who currently shills for Anheuser-Busch, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Express Scripts, and who has worked the Capitol's corridors for decades, can smoke wherever he damn well pleases, thanks to a 1995 Senate resolution "forever" granting the airspace immediately surrounding Britton "an official Missouri State Senate Designated Smoking Area."

 
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