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Illinois Senate approves statewide smoking ban


Springfield, Ill. – All restaurants and bars across Illinois would have to go smoke-free under legislation approved Thursday by the state Senate. The vote was 34-23; the legislation now goes to the House.

The measure would replace the patchwork of dozens of local smoking ordinances across Illinois with a single policy meant to protect people from secondhand smoke in the workplace.

Working eight hours in a smoky bar or restaurant is the equivalent of smoking 16 cigarettes, the American Cancer Society says. It estimates secondhand smoke contributes to the deaths of 2,900 Illinoisans a year about eight a day.

"We spend billions of dollars of taxpayers' money in health care," said the sponsor, Sen. Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills). "This is our time to remedy this problem."

Also Thursday, the House overwhelmingly rejected legislation prohibiting people from smoking in cars if any passenger is 8 or younger. The measure got 18 "yes" votes and 91 "no" votes.

Sixteen other states already have similar smoking restrictions.

Opponents said decisions about smoking bans should be left to city and county officials. Forty-four Illinois communities have approved restrictions on smoking in public places, according to the Cancer Society.

"They're the ones who are best equipped in order to make this decision," said Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon.

But some business owners object to letting each city make the decision. Bars and restaurants covered by bans are put at a disadvantage against their competitors just outside city limits, they argue.

An association representing bars and other businesses that serve alcohol argued that a smoking ban would be devastating to their bottom-line, especially for small businesses.

"What you're going to have left is a homogenous TGI Friday entertainment industry, because they're the ones with deep pockets. Mom-and-pop places, there's no way they can withstand this," said Steve Riedl, executive director of the Illinois Licensed Beverage Association.

Riedl said bars in Springfield and other cities with smoking bans have seen business drop sharply.

If it becomes law, the statewide smoking ban would take effect in January 2008 and apply to nearly all businesses. Tobacco stores would be exempt, as would private rooms in nursing homes. Hotels and motels would be able to allow smoking in 25 percent of their rooms.

Smoking also would be prohibited within 15 feet of entrances to businesses.

People violating the ban could be fined $100 to $250. Businesses that allow violations could be fined $250 a day.

Dr. Clement Rose, president of the Cancer Society's Illinois division, called Thursday's vote "a giant step forward in making sure everyone has the right to breathe clean, smoke-free air."


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