To the People

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Illinois Smoking Ban

During my vacation trip back to the US last week, I went to Peoria, Illinois, to visit some college friends. It was also my first time back in IL since the state-wide smoking ban took effect. The ban was written in such a way that, basically, nobody understands what the fuck is going on. My attempt, via Google, to find out exactly what is the enforcement policy, was fruitless.

The Smoke Free Illinois Act is apparently more bark than bite at the moment.

The St. Clair County Health Department has decided not to issue tickets until the law is better defined. The Madison County Health Department, although not saying it won’t issue tickets, has not written any either.

Officials in both counties cite the need for the law to be better defined by either the Illinois Department of Public Heath or Illinois General Assembly, or the act itself written in a way that includes a more active means of enforcement. “At this point in time we are not issuing tickets. We are offering owners and managers the opportunity to do voluntary enforcement in order to follow the law,” said Barb Hohlt, director of health protection at the St. Clair County Health Department.

The bar owner from O'Fallon, Illinois, whom I talked to said that he is enforcing the ban... but basically because he isn't sure whether or not he can get fined for allowing people to smoke in his bar. And from what I've heard from friends, the bars in the cities and suburbs are enforcing the ban while the more rural bars (and there are plenty in Illinois) are ignoring the ban, for the most part.

In Peoria, Illinois, my college town, the ban was being enforced. And while I haven't been in Peoria often enough recently to be able to tell whether the smoking ban has affected bar business, the bar I went to downtown definitely was taking advantage of it. In the case of that particular bar, if you arrived at the bar before the cover charge went into effect and you went outside to smoke later on, they'd demand the cover charge on your way back in. Of course, the bar certainly has the right to do this on its own property, but it was frustrating for both the unsuspecting smokers and the staff member at the door.

So the ambiguities of the Illinois ban could result in either a breakdown of the ban or a tightening of the regulations. Unfortunately, I suspect it will be the latter. But I was glad to hear far more opposition to the ban in Illinois than I ever heard in my current home state of Washington.

Still, though, it looks pretty much certain that smoking will soon be banned everywhere in the US besides your own non-commercial property. Some towns are even closing in on that. So now I guess it's just a matter of when, not if.

2015? 2025?

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