Smoking ban tops list of new laws for '08

December 31, 2007 10:54:38 PM PST
The final night of the year is also the final night for smokers to light up. A new statewide smoking ban in bars, restaurants and most public places begins in 2008.

It is an interesting time for a law of this magnitude to take effect. Just as you're singing "Auld Lange Syne," smokers in restaurants and bars will be reminded to snuff out their cigarettes. It is not that the smoking police will be out en masse to cuff smokers who keep puffing, but there will most definitely be a change in habit as Illinois becomes the 23rd state to ban smoking in public places.

There are still butts in the trays, but after midnight, they're gone.

"At midnight, it'll be time to start collecting the ashtrays, or shortly thereafter," said Bobby McGuire, Butch McGuire's.

At tavern's like Butch McGuire's, the last call for alcohol will be preceded by a last call for cigarettes and cigars, as the new statewide ban on smoking in public places takes effect as 12:01 a.m.

"We're gonna be smoking 'til they tell us to stop. After that, I guess will go outside," said Matt Aplington, Visiting chicago.

The new law prohibits indoor smoking in public places -- bars, restaurants, clubs. You want to smoke? You must take it outside, at least 15 feet from the entrance.

"If whole countries like Ireland, with all those pubs all over the place, can become smoke free, Illinois can do it too," said State Rep. Karen Yarbrough, D-Maywood.

Some of the legislative sponsors of the state's smoking ban saluted Monday what they call a life-saving law that they believe will take effect without major headaches.

"I don't foresee any big problems with it. I think the transition will be smooth and people will move on," said Ald. Ed Smith, 28th Ward.

Some municipalities like Oak Park have already banned indoor smoking in public places. At the Maple Tree restaurant, the ban has helped business.

"It actually increased a little bit 'cause people prefer a non-smoking environment," said Frank Frangello, restaurant owner.

Mario Martinez and his family saw the new law coming last fall, so they transformed their Humboldt Park Mexican restaurant into a cigar smoke shop. The old kitchen is now the new humidor. Since the bulk of the business is tobacco, the law will allows customers to come in, buy and smoke.

"Considering the options of where people can smoke, I think it's a good opportunity. It has potential," said Martinez.

Smoker Matt Aplington applauds the ban from a health perspective, but...

"I still think it's a government intrusion on my choice, but you just deal with it," Aplington said.

Businesses that violate the smoking ban will get a series of warnings, and then they are subject to fines. But in the year that Chicago's smoking ban has been in place, there have been roughly 120 complaints, a comparatively small number, and nearly all of them were resolved short of a financial penalty.

There are some other new laws and changes that go into effect at midnight:

It will cost more to drink bottled water in Chicago. The city is imposing a 5 percent tax on the beverage.

The Chicago Transit Authority will start selling its reduced fare cards in two-card packs instead of 20-card packs. The agency is also selling pre-valued $10 and $20 cards.

Illinois dentists will have to follow a new set of rules for sedating patients. A new law will require them to get additional training and a permit to administer deep anesthesia.

The sale of the herb salvia will be banned in the new year. It has been available in tobacco shops. The plant causes people to hallucinate. Those who use or buy it in 2008 could be charged with a felony.