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Missouri House Panel Rejects Office Smoking Ban

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – A Democratic proposal to ban smoking in the Capitol offices of Missouri House members was snuffed out Tuesday in a Republican-led committee.

Smoking already is prohibited in the Capitol hallways and House and Senate chambers, but lawmakers are free to light up cigarettes and cigars in their own offices and can let guests, lobbyists and staff do likewise.

As this year’s legislative session began, House Democrats announced last week they had adopted a policy making all of their members’ offices smoke-free. On Tuesday, Democrats on the House Rules Committee tried to expand the office smoking ban by amending the official House rules. But their effort failed on an 8-4 vote, with all the Republicans on the committee in opposition and all the Democrats in support of it.

State Rep. Kimberly Gardner, D-St. Louis, had implored colleagues to adopt her amendment by citing statistics about the health risks associated with smoking and breathing in the others’ tobacco smoke. She said smoky offices can negatively affect visitors, including children and those suffering from emphysema. And Gardner noted that most government buildings, schools and hospitals already ban all indoor smoking.

By rejecting an office smoking ban, “we’re sending a message to our constituents that we don’t care we’re above the law,” Gardner said.

No one spoke against the proposed smoking ban before the committee defeated it.

Afterward, House Rules Committee Chairwoman Jeanie Riddle said she understands why some lawmakers may want to smoke in their offices, even though she does not allow it in her own.

“Probably the rub with a number of the members, on both sides of the party, is it’s not a normal working environment. We are here very long hours,” said Riddle, R-Mokane.

State Rep. Stanley Cox, who also voted against the office smoking ban, said the decision to prohibit it should be left to each lawmaker.

“I’m not a smoker, but if somebody wants to come smoke a cigarette in my office, I will tolerate it,” said Cox, R-Sedalia. “I do not accept that all smokers are evil.”

© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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