Thursday, November 17, 2005

Proposed Smoking Ban in Springfield IL

I'm a non-smoker. Smoking is utterly disgusting. At work I rarely go into the break room when there are lots of people smoking. However, I believe that it should be up to the individual businesses to decide if their place of business should be non-smoking or not. On this particular issue the government is wrong to force business owners to go non-smoking! Let the marketplace determine whether business owners made the right decision or not.

Public smoking ban on hold
Strom suggests plan might be phased in


Published Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ward 10 Ald. Bruce Strom Monday suggested phasing in his proposed ban on smoking at indoor workplaces in Springfield.

Strom made the comments after asking the Springfield City Council public affairs committee to delay sending the original smoking ban ordinance to the full council. The measure was to have been voted on tonight, but Strom said he didn't have the votes to pass the ordinance in its current form.

That ordinance would prohibit smoking in nearly all workplaces and would take effect 60 days after passage,

Strom said a compromise that takes a gradual approach eventually would get Springfield to where he and a coalition of anti-smoking groups wants to go.

"Whether it's this year, next year or the year after that, I think this is going to keep coming back. There is such strong support in our community ... for this that it will not go away," Strom said.

Sixty-five percent of Springfield voters favored a comprehensive indoor smoking ban, according to a poll commissioned by the American Lung Association of Illinois and Iowa in August.

Strom said he is willing to discuss delayed implementation of a smoking ban that would cover nearly all Springfield workplaces, including restaurants, bars and bowling alleys.

For example, Strom said, smoking first could be banned in all indoor workplaces except bars. Then, over a period of months, it would also be banned in taverns, bowling alleys and other places where smoking is prevalent.

Strom said he also is open to the possibility of some sort of temporary "smoking license," under which businesses that can prove they have been economically damaged 12 months after the start of the ban would again be allowed to have smoking for a period of time.

Chicago, which also is debating whether to ban smoking, has discussed such a proposal.

Interested groups, including the pro-ban coalition, restaurants and tavern groups, will be in contact to attempt to hash out details, Strom said.

"We'll take this opportunity to have some dialogue," Strom said. "The proponents of the ordinance ... probably will have some thoughts on how we can make this an easier transition, because we think that's part of the problem."

The only indoor workplaces in Springfield where smoking would be allowed, under Strom's original proposal, are hotel rooms and nursing home rooms where residents have agreed to allow smoking. That version would give Springfield the strictest indoor smoking ban in Illinois and one of the strictest in the nation.

Ward 1 Ald. Frank Edwards has proposed exempting taverns, bowling alleys, private clubs and private homes that operate as home businesses.

Edwards initially supported Strom's version, but then became concerned about its legality and the effect on mom-and-pop neighborhood taverns. He said Monday he's open to compromises other than the ones he has proposed.

"If the AG (attorney general) comes back and says we can talk about the bars and we can talk about the bowling alleys, I'll look at giving him (Strom) an alternate compromise," Edwards said Monday. "You're not going to get everything you want at the get-go."

However, not all of the other four aldermen leaning in favor of Strom's ordinance are willing to go along with any compromise.

Ward 6 Ald. Mark Mahoney has said picking out certain businesses for exemptions would lead to an uneven playing field. Restaurants with a strong bar business have complained that they will be hurt if smoking is banned in their establishments, but not in taverns.

Under Edwards' proposal, which business would be smoking and non-smoking would be determined by what type of liquor license they hold.

Smoking would be banned in establishments with specific restaurant licenses, such as Saputo's, Maldaner's, Chilli's, and D'Arcy's Pint. But smoking would be allowed in taverns that serve food at some time during the day. Examples are Sammy's Sports Bar and Grill, Boone's Saloon, The Alamo and Brewhaus.

Mahoney said he might consider a compromise that would ban smoking in all indoor workplaces from 3 a.m. to 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. and then return to the current law from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Edwards on Friday rejected the idea of a non-binding referendum that would ask Springfield residents what they want to do regarding smoking. Last year, residents supported an Edwards-backed referendum that asked whether the city and Sangamon County health departments should be merged.

Edwards said that, while he realizes a majority of residents probably want smoking banned, the government must protect the rights of business owners and others in the minority.

"A majority of people are going to go to the polls and want to ban smoking, but not understand the ramifications," he said. "A true democracy is whatever the majority wants. That can get dangerous."

Chris Wetterich can be reached at 788-1523 or