Big differences in St. Louis

Basykes, Flickr

Stacy Reliford

American Cancer Society

Advocate Stacy Reliford worked in St. Louis area communities such as Brentwood, Clayton, Creve Coeur, Kirkwood, Lake St. Louis, and O’Fallon to pass smokefree laws. She shared some of the success stories in this interview with Tobacco Free Missouri.

After the smokefree law was passed, how long did it take to notice differences in the community?

I’ll use Kirkwood as an example, we went out to dinner the day the law went into effect. We went to a place that was usually a particularly smoky place; they had a huge bar area and that was where you waited for your table. So we walked in a day after the law went into effect and you couldn’t smell any smoke. The place was packed and we waited 25 minutes for a table.

I think overall, the biggest difference is that there is not a big difference. And while that may seem counterintuitive, it’s just that a lot of people expect big things to happen, like places to board up and shut down, and for people to stop going to bingo nights. But the reality is life does go on as normal; it’s just more people stepping outside to smoke than before.

What would you tell other communities that are considering going smokefree?

The biggest challenge, but definitely the most rewarding, is finding passionate advocates in the community – people who care enough to come to the planning meetings and show up in city council and advocate for change. At the end of the day, these are the people that are going to be most compelling to policy makers – the ones they run into at the grocery store, the ones they see out in restaurants. Having those people care enough about the issue is an essential part of a campaign and everything else gets easier from that point on.