It’s a law that many people have learned to live with – living both longer and healthier.
This month marks the fifth anniversary of the passage of the Smoke-Free Illinois Act, which prohibits smoking in virtually every workplace and indoor public space in the state. The law’s intent was to protect nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke.
“We know that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” Jane Lux, DeKalb County Public Health Administrator, said. “Secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of tobacco products and the smoke exhaled from the lungs by smokers.”
According to Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, breathing secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer and heart disease in nonsmoking adults and can increase the risk of serious respiratory problems like asthma and respiratory tract infections in children.
Lux said some businesses, like restaurants and taverns, were concerned about the law early on, particularly if they were located near the borders of other states. When the law passed in 2008, only 12 other states had similar laws, Lux said; today that number has risen to 25.
“Everyone grumbled about it, but they got used to it,” Karl Gallagher, the owner of Karlsbad Tavern in Genoa, said. “There wasn’t anything you could do; it was the law.”
Gallagher said the smoke-free act did not impact his business. Since every business had to comply with it, he said it was “an even playing field.”
“It’s kind of the norm now,” he said.
Sandy Mazomenos, general manager of Johnny’s Charhouse in Sycamore, said a lot of people who don’t smoke liked the law.
“They were very happy that they passed the law,” she said. “I enjoy it personally that there’s no smoking in the restaurant. It doesn’t smell.”
Those who do want to smoke in public can still step outside. The act requires that smoking be done at least 15 feet from a building’s “entrance, exits, windows that open and ventilation intakes.”
Since the law was passed, the number of adult smokers in the state has dropped from 21.2 percent in 2008 to 15.9 percent in 2012, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Tobacco-related hospitalizations and health care costs have both decreased substantially, and an estimated 30,200 heart disease hospitalizations in Illinois have been prevented, which translates into an estimated savings of $1.18 billion.
“As we celebrate the fifth anniversary of Smoke-Free Illinois, we need to make sure that the law is as strong today as it was five years ago and that tobacco use continues to decline, especially among children, teens and young adults,” Lux said. “Critical to doing this is to ensure that the state continues to fund tobacco prevention programs based on the best practice guidelines.”
Want to Quit?
The Illinois Tobacco Quitline has information and resources to help smokers quit. The line can be reached at 1-855-QUIT-YES or www.quityes.org.
Kishwaukee Community Hospital also offers smoking cessation groups and classes. For information, call 815-748-8962 or visit www.kishhospital.org/programs.