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County board should follow Chicago's lead on smoking limits

Thursday, December 08, 2005
Daily Southtown

THE ISSUE: County commissioner proposes ban on smoking in public places.
WE SAY: Proposal is in the public interest, but county should phase in ban at bars, as Chicago City Council has.

After months of rancorous debate, the Chicago City Council on Wednesday adopted a ban on smoking in nearly all public places, including restaurants and bars. Ald. Ed Smith, who proposed the ban, introduced a compromise measure that gives bars until 2008 to comply. The compromise broke a deadlock, and the ban passed 45 to 1.

The resulting measure puts in place temporarily the solution we've been calling for — a ban on smoking in virtually all public places with the exception of bars, where smoking has traditionally been viewed as acceptable. It gives bars and smokers time to adapt and adjust to regulatory changes that are taking place in many big cities. We view the compromise as an appropriate middle ground.

In our view, the Cook County Board of Commissioners ought to follow the city council's example and adopt a similar compromise.

Commissioner Mike Quigley (D-Chicago) said this week he would propose a comprehensive ban on smoking in all public places. Such a county ordinance would affect businesses and other public places in unincorporated areas, and in any city or village that did not have its own smoking ordinance.

Staff writer Jonathan Lipman reported Wednesday that a majority of county commissioners support Quigley's proposal. Eight commissioners said they would vote in favor of such a ban, and two — including board President John Stroger — said they were "leaning" toward a "yes" vote. Five said they would oppose the ban, and three declined to take a position or declined comment.

Quigley said his intention was to "save lives" and "make people healthier." We support that goal, of course, but we think the county board needs to recognize the potential economic impact an immediate comprehensive ban would have on taverns and bars. The city's grace period makes it particularly important that the county board recognize the economic damage an immediate ban might cause.

We believe most of America will impose smoking bans in public places in the not-too-distant future, and rightly so. We also believe such bans are in the public interest for the obvious health reasons and because of the cost issues related to treating chronic smoking-related diseases.

The city council's approach gives the county board an example to follow, one that recognizes the health concerns but makes allowances for the realities of running a business that primarily serves alcoholic beverages.


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