Civil Liberties Attorney Sues Town over Smoking Ban

This is the kind of smoking ban story I like to see—one about a guy standing up for peoples’ rights to smoke outside without being policed. W. Bevis Schock (awesome name, by the way), a civil liberties attorney from St. Louis, MO, is suing the city of Clayton, MO for infringing on its citizens’ rights to smoke outdoors. Joining Schock is Hugh A. Eastwood, assisted by Washington University law graduate Russell Anhalt.

Schock originally tried to get several residents of the city to sue, but eventually settled on Arthur Gallagher, a 55-year-old retiree who has lived in Clayton for several years. Before the ban, Gallagher’s morning routine consisted of strolling through Concordia Park while drinking a cup of coffee and smoking a fine stogie.

But not since the legislation hit—according to Clayton’s current laws, smoking is banned in all city parks, garages, and parking lots, and violators face a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail. It blows my mind that doing something so harmless as lighting a cigar in a parking lot can get you thrown in jail for up to 3 months.

According to an article in Riverfront Times, Schock has cited Groucho Marx, who was an avid cigar smoker, in his lawsuit. In particular, he included a few lines from his 1933 film Duck Soup, in which the comedian plays the newly appointed dictator of a bankrupt nation, aptly called Freedonia:

These are the laws of my administration:
No one’s allowed to smoke
Or tell a dirty joke —
And whistling is forbidden…

If chewing gum is chewed,
The chewer is pursued
And in the hoosegow hidden…

If any form of pleasure is exhibited
Report to me and it will be prohibited
I’ll put my foot down;
So shall it be –
This is the land of the free.”

Isn’t it amazing how satire from almost 80 years ago is so relevant today? Anyway, Schock argued that exhaust from roadways, smog from manufacturing, and barbeque grills in city parks pose more of a greater threat to Clayton’s citizens than tobacco smoke. I wish that there were more lawyers like W. Bevis Schock—maybe things would actually get done for us smokers. Would somebody please send this guy to New York?

City Attorney Kevin O’Keefe said that the new law addressed “litter and unhealthy conduct on property owned by the city,” adding that the legal basis for the ban is strong and straightforward. I understand litter issues, but come on, instead of paying cops to throw smokers in jail, how about buying a few ashtrays? And as for banning “unhealthy behavior” on city property, does that mean they’d throw me in jail for eating a cheeseburger on a park bench? Give me a break.

Schock’s lawsuit can be found in its entirety with the Riverfront Times article. I hope that Schock and his legal team as well as Gallagher and every other displaced smoker in Clayton, MO get the ridiculous ban overturned, and let their success serve as an example for smokers everywhere!

Photo taken from A Touch Of Evil (1958), more screenshots available here.

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