EDITORIAL - Praise for non-smoking zealots is premature

Staff Writer
Woodford Times

There has been a lot of praise heaped on the effort to outlaw indoor smoking in the Land of Lincoln.

There is praise for groups like the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association for their dogged pursuit of a law here.

They won the battle and indoor smoking is outlawed in public places.

And, then there is the praise heaped on the Illinois General Assembly for passing a flawed law and then working to get it right.

“Illinois has one of the most protective smoke-free laws in the country,” said Janet Williams, co-chair of the Illinois Coalition Against Tobacco.

“It is clear that Illinois legislators understand the harmful health effects of secondhand smoke ...”

That almost makes it sound like the issue of indoor smoking has been met and defeated.

Put a hold on the praise.

The problem is defiance plays in Peoria.

A survey of four taverns last week in Peoria and Peoria Heights revealed violations at all four establishments.

Some smokers, tavern owners and/or bartenders, based on their actions, are apparently unconcerned about enforcement.

It should come as no surprise because Peoria — like any place people call home — has law-breakers.

It is human nature to rebel against being told what to do. That is the whole basis behind the founding of this nation.

Defiance was on display during our survey.

None of the taverns visited had the required no smoking signs on their doors.

None of the three taverns featuring outdoor smoking patios kept smokers 15 feet from the door, as required under the law.

And, in the three taverns where people were observed smoking they did it openly, apparently unconcerned about enforcement.    

Those smoking were unconcerned for good reason. The enforcement agencies who should be concerned about illegal smoking are overwhelmed.

Peoria Heights police chief Dustin Sutton, quite honestly, said indoor smoking is not high on his list of priorities.

Whether or not smoking enforcement should be as high a priority as, say, speed enforcement is a topic for another time. 

Right now let us focus on the smoking opponents who pushed the Illinois General Assembly to pass this law.

What have they done?

Well, they pepper the press with messages and poll numbers.

For example, nearly a year ago, public smoking opponents issued a press release stating 73 percent of Illinois voters expressed support for Illinois’ Smoke Free Act.

“The smoke free law is working exactly as intended to protect the people of Illinois from the health harms of secondhand smoke and preserve their right to breathe clean air. Clearly, Illinois voters appreciate the new law,” said Dr. Clement Rose, president of the Illinois Division of the American Cancer Society.


From our perspective it appears, for the most part, they have pressured legislators to create another law that police and health departments do not have the resources to enforce with any regularity.

Is that really an accomplishment?

If the lead agencies of the Illinois Smoke Free Act — the Illinois Coalition Against Tobacco, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association of Illinois & Greater Chicago and Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago — want to make a real contribution they should ask their staff, volunteers and supporters to police taverns.

That is an effort we could praise.