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Cook County smoking ban remains in place

Thursday, February 22, 2007
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman Staff writer

A proposal to roll back Cook County's smoking ban barely failed Wednesday, but not before commissioners traded some heated insults.

The measure from Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman (R-Orland Park) would have changed the ban so it matched Chicago's anti-smoking ordinance. Instead of prohibiting smoking in all restaurants and bars next month, the county ban would have taken effect for taverns and restaurant bar sections July 1, 2008.

Gorman's proposal failed on an 8-to-8 vote. A majority of votes was needed for passage. Southland commissioners split their vote, with Gorman and Joan Murphy (D-Crestwood) favoring the rollback while Deborah Sims (D-Chicago) opposed it.

Advisers to county board President Todd Stroger have said that, despite holding no seat on the board, Stroger has a right to vote and may vote to break a tie. But Stroger cast no vote Wednesday.

Commissioner Mike Quigley, who sponsored the original ban, blasted the board's five Republicans, all of whom supported the rollback. He said they promised him when the ordinance passed that a one-year delay in enforcement was enough.

"You lied to us," Quigley (D-Chicago) told the GOP commissioners. "Your word means nothing. ... All you are selling is deception and death and sickness."

Gorman accused the short-statured Quigley of having "a Napoleon complex" and said she didn't appreciate a North Sider telling the south suburbs what's best.

"To call us liars, that's bullcrap, Mike," Gorman said.

The county ban, effective March 15, has caused widespread debate over public smoking in the suburbs. The measure affects all public places in Cook County, but any municipal smoking ordinance would trump the county law in that town.

Orland Park, Tinley Park and Oak Forest banned smoking in public places in early January but have delayed enforcement until March 14 after an outcry from local business owners. Tinley Park officials spent $25,000 on a study on the ban's effect on business.

Quigley argued Wednesday that there was no reason for commissioners to push back the county's smoking prohibition because towns can still control their policies and because medical science has not changed its opinion on the dangers of secondhand smoke.

"By delaying this, you could bear out, statistically, how many more people will be hurt, how many more people will die," Quigley said.

Gorman said she was just trying to prevent businesses on the border of Chicago and other counties from losing customers.

"This is not about public health ... this is about the implementation process," she said. "This is not wavering from the ban in any way."

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