A year later, smoking ban still breathing

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By Emily Bardales

The cold arrival of 2009 also brought about the first anniversary of the Smoke Free Illinois Act in workplaces, restaurants, bars and gaming businesses.

The Champaign smoking ban started in 2006, but not without resistance from local smokers.

“The biggest argument was when Champaign enforced a smoking ban and Savoy didn’t,” said Champaign mayor, Gerald Schweighart. “It was chasing business across the border.”

Mayor Schweighart stands in a unique position as both enforcer of the smoking ban and a smoker himself. He holds the position that the decision to be smoke-free should be up to the business owner, but he hasn’t found the new law to be much of a personal bother.

“Now they’re talking about a drastic increase on the tax on cigarettes so I will be quitting soon,” Schweighart said of his habit.

Schweighart said individual attempts to repeal the law have stopped because of the lack of success. After the ban became statewide, there was not much more that those with opposing opinions could do.

As for enforcing the ban, the city has not had trouble.

“Everybody in town is pretty well complying with it,” Schweighart said. “Some businesses have created outside smoking areas in their bars and restaurants.”

Mike Laurent, of the hookah bar Green Street Cafe, 35 E. Green Street, has not had any problems with business in the first year of the smoking ban.

“Not in the least,” Laurent said.

However, the Cafe created a separate unit called Green Street Cafe Two specifically for hookah smoking, separate from the drinking and eating.

All tobacco shops are exempt from the smoking ban across the state.

Mindy Henrey manager at Colonial Pantry, 312 E. Green St., has not found the smoking ban to have caused any changes in sales.

“I’ve only been working here for six months, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt sales at all,” Henrey said.

Jon’s Pipe Shop, 509 E. Green St., has experienced a 25 percent decrease in sales this year.

“I keep writing state representatives, and congress, and anyone I can but it doesn’t seem to make any effect,” said Pat Callaghan, the shop’s owner.

While he admits that part of the problem is the economy, he said he feels that the smoking ban has left smokers with nowhere to go.

“Where do you go to smoke? There’s no place to smoke comfortably, especially for people that like fine cigars; you can’t step out for a quick smoke,” Callaghan said. “You can’t enjoy the aroma and flavor outside with this wind blowing everywhere.”

Eric Meyer, owner of KAM’S, said he was on the side of the business owners having the choice of whether to allow smoking in their building. Business, however, has not been affected in the first year of the ban.

“I do feel bad for some of the people that smoke; they have kind of been discriminated against, and I find that unfortunate but at this point it hasn’t effected our business,” Meyer said. “I know other bar owners where it has really devastated their business.”

In Meyer’s experience, those who accidently light up indoors and are asked to move outside are surprisingly and exceptionally compliant.

“They have been nicer than I expected when asked to go smoke outside,” he added.