Joined: 8:00 AM - Jan 16, 2003

11:31 PM - Jul 25, 2007 #31

From: Joel Sent: 7/25/2007 10:06 AM
Governor signs statewide smoking ban

By David Mendell and James Kimberly

Tribune staff reporters

9:15 PM CDT, July 23, 2007

Smokers throughout Illinois soon will have to step outside or into a private setting to light up after Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Monday signed into law a smoking ban that extends to nearly all public places across the state.

The governor's action, which state health officials said makes Illinois the 19th state with a broad smoking ban, culminated nearly two decades of intense efforts by anti-smoking advocates to curtail smoking in public.

The law will take effect on Jan. 1, stitching together a patchwork of local smoking bans passed mostly in the Chicago area in recent years.

Blagojevich scrawled his signature on the bill at Northwestern Memorial Hospital amid hundreds of joyous medical professionals, cancer survivors, health advocates and other anti-smoking crusaders. They said this day was a long-time coming after years of lobbying village councils, small-town and big-city mayors, state lawmakers and, finally, the governor.

"For me, this has been a 30-year battle," said an emotional Barb Nation, a Springfield resident who lost part of her lung to a tumor that her doctor told her resulted from second-hand smoke in the workplace. "This is a new day, an amazing day."

Yet as the anti-smoking advocates cheered and hugged each other, tavern owners and smokers across Illinois had quite a different reaction. Bar managers criticized lawmakers for succumbing to political pressure that they said almost certainly will hurt, if not destroy, some of their businesses.

They were heartened, however, that the ban would extend across the state instead of being targeted to specific locales. Currently, 44 communities have smoking bans, and bar owners in no-public-smoking areas have complained that smokers are traveling out of town to hoist a beer and light up a cigarette.

"I think it's going to cost me a lot of money-I hope I can stay in business," said Bill Broukal, owner of Cuzin's Tavern and Pizza in Tinley Park. "I don't think the governor cares-whatever looks good for him. I think the governor should let the people decide."

At Jake Moran's pub in Mundelein, which allows smoking, response to the ban among the 10 or so patrons ranged from the merely angry to the unprintable.

"It's the General Assembly being our new nanny," said Wally Degner, 70, of Palatine, a pipe smoker for 50 years. "After this they'll ban foods that are too fatty. You'll have to ask the state what you can eat and drink-they'll start regulating hamburgers."

Some home offices hit The law will prohibit smoking in all public buildings and in most businesses and government vehicles. Smoking will be illegal in bars and restaurants, as well as places ranging from student dormitories to private homes in which businesses open to the public are operated.

Chicago's smoking ban took effect Jan. 16, 2006, and covered areas including restaurants, CTA train platforms and bingo halls. But free-standing bars and restaurants with bar areas were given until July 1, to eliminate smoking. The state law would hasten that ban by six months.

Local communities are still free to pass more stringent no-smoking bans with those local rules superseding the state law, named by legislators as the Smoke Free Illinois Act.

Ringing endorsements of Blagojevich's signature came from throughout the health care and anti-smoking communities. Advocacy groups such as the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and American Medical Association have long waged campaigns to curb public smoking in the hopes of cutting back on overall smoking.

These activists filled the large conference room for Blagojevich's bill signing. They wore T-shirts that read, "8 people in Illinois die every day from second-hand smoke" and they held placards that showed a burning cigarette with the proclamation, "Weapons of Mass Destruction." They said up to 13,000 volunteers had worked over the years toward Monday's goal.

Activists hope that Illinois' action will keep momentum going for more states to follow suit.

Blagojevich said it took little persuasion for him to back the legislation.

"This law will save lives," the governor said. "The realities are that smoking kills people. . . .My only regret is that this took so long."

Smoker to try take-out That sentiment did not extend to all quarters, however. As she sat at a table on the outdoor patio of Jimmy's Grill in downtown Naperville, a Marlboro Light Menthol dangling from her fingers, Heather Pavlik said she considered the new law an affront to her individual rights.

"I think it's ridiculous that alcohol is legal and they are going to ban tobacco. It's just taking away citizen's rights. They're just pushing people around for no reason," Pavlik said.

Pavlik said the law will affect her behavior.

"This will change my attitude toward dining out," she said. "I'd rather stay home and eat take-out."

Restaurateur Jim Bergeron believes such attitudinal shifts will be common and will affect the bottom line of bars and restaurants. Bergeron and his father own Jimmy's Grill and Tessa's in Naperville.

"It is not good for the industry because it targets the regulars who make up the bulk of our profit margin," Bergeron said. "Smokers tend to go out three to four times more often than non-smokers."

Still, Bergeron called the full statewide smoking ban "the better of two bad alternatives." ... ylocal-hed