On a Thursday morning in late February, a group of 100 middle and high school students gathered in the rotunda of the state capitol building in Jefferson City for a capitol day event organized by the Tobacco Free Missouri Youth Advisory Board. Their goal was to speak with their legislators about making the building smoke-free. Unlike every other public building in Jefferson City, the capitol building doesn’t entirely comply with the city’s smoking ban - lawmakers are unofficially allowed to smoke in their offices.
You’ve probably heard it before: rates of smoking and tobacco use in Missouri are some of the highest in the nation. Roughly 1 in 4 Missourians over the age of 18 smoke tobacco and the state ranks 50th for workplace exposure to second-hand smoke. But what isn’t clear is why Missouri has consistently ranked so low compared with other states. I spoke with Traci Kennedy, Executive Director of Tobacco Free Missouri, who says it’s because lawmakers have made it particularly easy to be a tobacco user in the state.
The smoking ban in restaurants and bars in Washington, Mo., officially came into effect on Monday, April 15. Members of Breathe Easy Washington, the group that pushed for the ordinance, celebrated that day at a local restaurant.
But since 2007, about two dozen municipalities in Missouri have enacted a comprehensive smoking ban in all workplaces, including restaurants and bars. This Monday, rural Washington, Mo., joins that list. The City Council voted to pass the ordinance to ban smoking back in January.