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Statewide regulations on smoking needed to provide consistency

Thursday, April 13, 2006
Daily Herald

THE ISSUE: In light of action taken by the Cook County Board, Orland Park wants local towns to rally around a plan that would set a uniform smoking policy in the region.
WE SAY: The intent of this endeavor is good, but it would make more sense if legislators in Springfield came up with a statewide statute regulating smoking.
Orland Park officials are trying to organize a regional approach to regulating smoking in public places such as restaurants and bars.
The village is hoping to organize meetings with surrounding towns to discuss smoking bans, prompted in part by the Cook County Board's recent approval of a ban on all smoking, which takes effect in March 2007. The ban will affect any community that does not have an ordinance of its own.
The result could be a confusing patchwork of conflicting regulations, which could put some businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Suburban businesses near the Chicago border, for example, may have to operate under regulations that are more restrictive than Chicago's. The Chicago City Council has enacted a smoking ban that gives bars and restaurants a two-year grace period before the ban goes into effect.
"We want to be fair and cognizant of the health risk to other individuals," said Orland Park Village Trustee Kathy Fenton. "We think it will be better for all of the establishments if we don't have a lot of jumping the boundaries to avoid smoking restrictions."
That's a legitimate concern. As we've said before, we believe cities and villages ought to take action to protect businesses within their boundaries from the impact of the county ban.
But as a practical matter, it's not likely that all communities will agree on a consistent approach on where and when smoking is permitted or banned.
For that reason we urge lawmakers in Springfield to devise a statewide statute regulating smoking. That's the most effective way to make certain that businesses are all operating on the same playing field, and to give customers clear information on the regulations. Smokers and non-smokers alike should know what the regulations are without having to research the laws in every community they might visit.

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