La Grange adapting to smoke-free Illinois
It's been five years since Illinois snuffed out smoking in most public spaces, and the move has been accepted, according to a study by the Illinois Lung Association.
Updated: March 4, 2013 1:49AM
LA GRANGE — It’s been five years since the Smoke-free Illinois Act sent smokers outside.
And according to a survey conducted by the American Lung Association in Illinois, voters like the change. The survey, which questioned 601 randomly selected voters, found that more than two-thirds strongly support the legislation, which since Jan. 1, 2008, prohibits smoking in virtually all public places, including restaurants and bars.
“Illinois residents are overwhelmingly positive about our smokefree state,” said former Democratic state Rep. Karen Yarborough, sponsor of the bill. “Overall support for the law is significant at 77 percent and includes support from all regions of the state, among men and women, all age groups and all political persuasions. Perhaps.”
Although some bar and restaurant owners predicted ill effects from the smokefree law, bill sponsor Sen. Terry Link, D-30th of Waukegan, said there is evidence to the contrary. The Illinois Liquor Control Commission Fiscal Year reports show that 500 more liquor licenses were issued statewide in fiscal 2012 than in fiscal 2007, before the Smoke Free Illinois Act was implemented.
Phil Palmer, co-owner of Palmer Place in La Grange, said the statewide ban didn’t curtail business, but eventually served to enhance it.
“If anything, it’s better for business,” Palmer said. “Smoking areas were areas where most people didn’t want to sit, and now you can use all your areas for every type of seating. People just like a nonsmoking environment for dining.”
La Grange liquor licenses require that 50 percent of an establishment’s business be from the sale of food, so bars or nightclubs aren’t permitted.
“It’s hard to believe we ever had smoking in the restaurant. That seems so long ago,” he said.
Smokers can’t light up within 15 feet of a restaurant or bar, and a few customers still head outside, even in the cold weather.
“There’s some type of etiquette. They set a coaster on top of their beer, say something to their server or they’re sitting at a table with someone else,” Palmer said.
Al Krenz, post commander of the Robert E. Coulter, Jr. Post 1941 of the American Legion, said the smoking ban wasn’t a hardship on the group, as some similar fraternal organizations had predicted. Only one post member was a regular smoker, and he cut back and went outside, Krenz said.
“People are just used to not smoking because of the restaurants,” he said. “I can’t speak for all Legion posts or VFWs, but it hasn’t been a problem for us.”
The lung association survey indicates even smokers support the law, with 53 percent in favor and 42 percent opposing the state’s smoke-free policy.
Residents of suburban Cook County and the collar counties of Chicago are among the biggest supporters of the smoke-free law. The association’s survey shows that 85 percent of Cook County suburbanites totally support the law, while just 12 percent totally oppose. In the rest of the suburbs, 82 percent strongly support the law, while 14 percent oppose.