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Commissioner proposes county smoking ban

Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

Nearly all of suburban Cook County's bars and restaurants could go smoke free under a proposal to be introduced today.

North Side Commissioner Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) said he wants to open a "second front" on the smoking debate that has engulfed Chicago City Council.

His proposed ban would prohibit smoking within 25 feet of all public spaces, including bars.

A county ordinance would affect all businesses in unincorporated Cook County, as well as any Cook County city, town or village that did not have its own ordinance regulating smoking.

Quigley said a smoking ban never has been proposed in Cook County.

"I think we should have a smoke-free country, and to the extent I have power and jurisdiction over a section of that area, I want to do that," Quigley said. "I want to save lives. I want to make people healthier."

It has taken years of city council debate for a smoking ban to have a legitimate chance at being approved in Chicago. Nonetheless, Quigley is optimistic.

"I think we'll have strong support, and I predict we'll pass this on the county level," Quigley said. "But it's in its infancy. We wanted to raise debate and take this to another level."

As city aldermen continued their discussion on a city ban Monday, Quigley conferred in the count council chamber's back room with representatives of the American Lung Association to line up their support.

The association and other smoking foes have lobbied for the city ban with a relentless public relations campaign. The Illinois Restaurant Association and others have lobbied just as fiercely against it.

Quigley has brought the issue personally to County President John Stroger. Stroger has not seen the final ordinance and has not formed a position, spokeswoman Caryn Stancik said.

South suburban commissioners were skeptical of the proposed ban. Elizabeth Gorman (R-Orland Park) said she'd want to see details and research about the effect on businesses before deciding. Joan Murphy (D-Crestwood) opposes a ban.

"People should have a right to choose what they want to do, and businesses should have a right to do what they want to do," Murphy said. "Every time we pass these laws we're infringing on people's personal liberties."

Commissioner Deborah Sims (D-Chicago) was not available for comment.

One of Quigley's usual allies on the board, Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston), said he can't vote yes or no on the ban because of his long history as a lobbyist and attorney for the Illinois Restaurant Association.

"This is an issue I've got to just stay out of," Suffredin said.

If a ban passed, any community that did not have a smoking ordinance in place would be affected, said professor Ann Lousin, an expert on Illinois constitutional law at John Marshall Law School.

Municipalities, when they do pass ordinances that supersede the county's, usually do so to make their ordinances stricter, not looser, Lousin said.

"They'd have to directly put themselves in direct opposition," Lousin said. "They'd have to vote for smoking. ... I don't see that happening."

Quigley plans to introduce the ordinance at today's county meeting, where it will be referred to a committee.

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