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.
“They absolutely have the right to smoke and we’re not telling anyone they don’t,” said Youth Advisory board member Alex Higginbotham, age 17. “They can still smoke in their home, but we’re asking them in public not to affect us.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Missouri is ranked 48th in the nation for number of adult smokers - roughly 1 in 4 Missourians over the age of 18 smoke. And the state ranks 50th for workplace exposure to second-hand smoke. The state’s Clean Indoor Air law gives business owners the option to declare a public space smoke-free, or to set up a designated smoking area. If communities want to be truly smoke-free, it’s up to local governments to make that happen. In the fall of 2010, Jefferson City banned indoor smoking in public spaces, including the capitol building. But state legislators continue to not-so-secretly smoke in their offices.