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Illinois Cities Consider Smoking Petition

December 5, 2003

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ Success by anti-smoking groups in Skokie and Wilmette has triggered ordinance proposals or petition drives to clear the air in several Illinois communities.

The two suburban cities have barred smoking in most public places, and now a village trustee in Arlington Heights has introduced a similar proposal to ban smoking everywhere except bars and bowling alleys.

``I think it’s becoming more of the norm,″ Trustee Steve Daday said. Several upscale Arlington Heights restaurants already have banned smoking, he said.

Likewise, Lake County officials estimate 350 of the county’s 2,000 restaurants prohibit smoking.

Chicago is considering a restaurant ban that was put on hold earlier in the year, and online petition drives or ordinance proposals have turned up in Hoffman Estates, Oak Park, DeKalb, Champaign and Urbana.

The list might be longer except that not every Illinois community has the legal authority to ban smoking. When state clean air standards went into effect in 1990, only those communities that already had some form of smoking law were permitted to enforce anything stricter.

Illinois restaurants, already battered by a stagnant economy, argue that a smoking ban could cost them. The Illinois Restaurant Association, representing 6,000 restaurants, leads the opposition.

``Our argument is let the customer decide,″ association president Colleen McShane said. ``I don’t know what the problem is. People have choices here.″

McShane said she can’t foresee a compromise.

``The proponents argue health. The opponents argue business. So, we’re never going to agree,″ she said.

An Illinois House committee twice rejected attempts to allow more communities to ban smoking. Supporters say they’ll keep trying.

``The game plan certainly by the public health community is twofold: to work with these existing communities and go 100 percent smoke-free, and at the same time use their momentum and say, `Hey, every community deserves this right, not just Skokie, not just Wilmette,‴ said Janet Williams, policy committee chairwoman for the American Lung Association of Metro Chicago.

Many of the cities allowed to impose bans are in suburban Chicago, and Williams said they could help pressure Chicago into action.

``I think that the more suburban communities that address this issue and provide 100 percent smoke-free workplaces, it makes it so Chicago can no longer maintain its unpopular stance of being the largest city in the country that still allows smoking,″ she said.

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