Ill. smoking ban marks one year

January 6, 2009 3:32:51 PM PST
It has been one year since Illinois' strict smoking ban went into effect.Many patrons of Chicago's bars and restaurants have been very satisfied with the city's ban on smoking which took affect about a year ago.

It took a while and much wrangling to get the smoking ban passed. It was a bitter fight.

But smoke-free Illinois went into effect January 1 last year. That means no smoking in any public place, workplace government vehicle or within 15 feet of a public place.

In the year since Illinois' smoking ban, restaurant and bar customers seem to be settling into the smoke-free climate.

"For me it's great. I'm a nonsmoker," Al Paraharm, non-smoker.

"As I've traveled a bit and been disciplined not to smoke and I go from a smoking area to a non-smoking area I appreciate the non-smoking area," said Sandy Mula, a smoker visiting from Indianapolis where there is also a smoking ban.

Donna Luke, the general manager of McCormick and Schmick's seafood restaurant on Wacker Drive, where they discontinued smoking at the bar after the ban, says the ban may have actually boosted business.

"I think it's a great experience. It makes for a more relaxing, more fun atmosphere," said Luke.

On Monday, local officials touted the one year anniversary of smoke-free Illinois.

"I want top commend the people of Illinois for stepping forward. There has been widespread acceptance of this rule and compliance with this rule," said Dr. Damon Arnold, Ill. Dept. of Public Health

Last year, Illinois casinos had sought an exemption of the smoking ban - at least on the casino floor. It was not successful.

The executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association says, from January to November of last year, Illinois casino business was down more than twenty percent.

A local restaurant owner says the ban hasn't affected business, but he's had to discontinue offering popular items, hookahs.

"It's terrible. Everyone comes in, they want to smoke hookah," said Roupen Demirdjian, restaurant owner.

Health officials say other states with smoking bans have seen health benefits.

The state's director of public health says there is also a huge cost due to smoking related illnesses. He looks forward to a reduction in those costs as smoking is reduced.

Also, the director of the Casino Gaming Association said they considered trying to get that exemption again this year but it is unlikely.