Champaign repeals smoking ban

By Sky Opila

Smokers in Champaign will be able to smoke again in bars and restaurants for the next eight months.

The Champaign City Council voted in a 5-4 majority Tuesday night to repeal the Champaign Clean Air Ordinance, which went into effect Jan. 31, 2007. This repeal comes after a bill banning smoking in public places throughout Illinois was passed by the Illinois House of Representatives on May 1, set to go in effect on Jan. 1, 2008.

The repeal of the Champaign bill goes into effect immediately, despite an attempt by some council members to move the date of effectiveness back to Aug. 1. The amendment was identically voted down 5-4.

When the bill was originally passed, Giraldo Rosales was one of the five council members that voted to put the ban in place. However, after the April 17 elections, Karen Foster, who voted in favor of the repeal on Tuesday, was voted to replace Rosales.

Many community members were in attendance to voice their opinions about the smoking ban and its pending repeal.

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    “I am a small business owner, I don’t smoke and I don’t allow smoking in my establishment, but I don’t want anybody telling me what to do with my business,” said Charles Wade, owner of Bait-N-Stuff, 411 Bloomington Road.

    Glenn Rasmussen, a Champaign resident and proclaimed smoker, said he has been to downtown Champaign only four times since the ban was originally put in place; however, he said he used to be downtown two to three times a week before that.

    “I’m going to continue to smoke cigars and a pipe because that’s who I am,” Rasmussen said. “And I’m going to continue not going downtown while there’s a smoking ban.”

    Many community members in attendance were wearing T-shirts in support of clean air in Champaign from the Champaign-Urbana Smoke Free Alliance. Daniel Lewart, vice president of the alliance, said repealing the smoking act would be a step backwards for public health.

    “It’s a tragedy that it took us this long to enact this ordinance and I find it morally repugnant and reprehensible that we’re even considering to repeal it,” said Ryan Rogers, a community member who was also wearing one of the alliance’s shirts.

    “To repeal this ban is to be irrational,” said Marisa Zapata, University graduate student. “To do this for seven months is completely counter to good governance.”