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Monday, September 17, 2018

Hookah, Vaping, Cigar Lounges Would Fall Under Smoking Ban in St. Louis County

Posted By on Mon, Sep 17, 2018 at 6:57 AM

click to enlarge Hookah would be banned from public places in St. Louis County if voters say yes to a plan on the ballots in November. - FLICKR/CHELSEA MARIE HICKS
  • Hookah would be banned from public places in St. Louis County if voters say yes to a plan on the ballots in November.
A smoking ban on St. Louis County ballots this November could mean big changes for a much broader swath of businesses than just bars where smoking is currently permitted.

If the proposed ban were to go into effect, smoking would be prohibited in public spaces, areas of employment and within fifteen feet of prohibited smoking areas. The ban would apply to cigars, hookahs, vaping and medicinal marijuana.

Jay Rosloff, owner of cigar lounge 66 Cigar (3860 S. Lindbergh Boulevard, Sunset Hills; 314-270-1968), believes the ban would put out of business the shop in which he has invested his life savings. As Rosloff puts it, while he does make his profit from selling cigars, customers do not go to 66 Cigar specifically to buy cigars.

“You can buy a cigar anywhere,” Rosloff says.

Instead, 66 Cigar is the “hospitality” industry. It offers its adult customers a place to sit and enjoy a cigar with fellow cigar lovers. Rosloff believes that a blanket ban preventing all types of smoking in all public institutions is overlooking specialty shops such as his.

“I’m not looking for conflict, just compromise,” Rosloff says.

John Burns, the owner of Stella Blues Vapor (340 Skinker Lane, Fenton; 636-678-7275), believes the measure as proposed would also hurt vape shops.

“The ban prevents my customers from sampling the different vapors,” Burns says. Burns believes that banning vaping is counterproductive to anti-smoking laws. Himself previously an avid smoker, Burns says he was able to quit smoking cigarettes with the help of vapor products. He firmly believes vaping can help other people quit smoking cigarettes as well.

Show-Me Smoke Free, along with a coalition of over 40 other organizations such as the American Heart Association and American Lung Association, has been the driving force behind the smoke-free proposal. Ben Murray, a Show-Me Smoke Free organizer, notes that the group’s petitions to remove smoking from workplaces were signed by “tens of thousands of real people.”

Murray and other members of Show-Me Smoke Free wish to make St. Louis a smoke-free workplace city in order to protect both customers and employees from the health complications that arise from breathing in secondhand smoke.

Show-Me Smoke Free does not endorse carve-outs or loopholes for any category of business, Murray says, specifically citing the exception made for casino floors in the smoking ban approved by city voters in 2011. “They are putting profits over people,” Murray says. Should the organization's proposed amendment make it onto the county ballot in November, it will be known as Proposition E.

“E as in smoke-free for everyone,” Murray says.

And despite concerns from Rosloff and Burns, not everyone thinks that's a bad thing — including some businesses that would be affected.

Prior to opening Al-Tarboush Market (602 Westgate Avenue, University City; 314-725-1944), Sleiman Bathani, his wife and six children owned a restaurant in Chicago that contained a hookah bar for their patrons. Although customers do not use hookahs inside their 21-year-old restaurant just off the Loop in University City, the Middle Eastern deli does sell the equipment for customers to use elsewhere.

While hookahs are a common part of Middle Eastern culture, Joeanne Bathani, Sleiman’s daughter, understands why some people wish to ban them.

“They are nice to get people together, it’s a social thing. It’s part of my culture,” she says. “But I understand the health risks.”

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