JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri smokers could face harsh restrictions under proposed legislation.
A bill proposed by Rep. Walter Bivins, R-St. Louis County, would make it illegal to smoke in enclosed public places like bars and restaurants, and certain outdoor venues -- in and within fifteen feet of playgrounds and bus stops, for example. Citizens could still light up in private homes and tobacco retail outlets.
Bivins' said his bill has received support from both the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society.
"This is their bill," Bivins said of the Lung Association and Cancer Society, "this is their language."
Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County, - a co-sponsor of the bill - said the St. Louis County smoking ban was already met with support, and "it was very much wanted by the people."
"The time has come for this," Newman said, "we have full support from voters, from the American Lung Association, from the medical community."
Bivins said he is "hopeful to get (the bill) through unscathed," but acknowledged that critics - including Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph - fear this is the wrong economic time for such legislation and businesses will suffer as a result.
"I'm not convinced a statewide smoking ban passes, even though I do believe it will happen in the coming years," Shields said. "Larger cities have taken the step, but there is still much resistance from businesses, such as restaurant owners from across the state who are already facing challenges."
Newman said these fears were "largely unfounded," and pointed to New York City's similar ban as a successful example.
"There's never a right time," Bivins said, "and this is as good a time as ever."