Smoking ban clarification

I read the article in the Thursday Feb. 8 issue titled: “Smoking ban hurts C-U bars, businesses.” While I understand there will be an adjustment period with the activation of the new ordinance, and we all want this to go as well as possible for all involved, I think a few comments should be made.

As of January 31, 2007 both communities, Champaign and Urbana, joined the cities of Springfield, Bloomington and Normal in adopting smoking ordinances that restrict smoking in public areas. This includes restaurants and bars. The new ordinance took affect for restaurants last August in Urbana, with virtually no problems. Bars came under the new guidelines just a little over a week ago.

One must remember that the ordinance was brought forward with overwhelming public support, and that the Champaign-Urbana area has is the second lowest number of smokers per capita in the state, according to a state survey. Also, the Surgeon General of the United States reported officially that second hand smoke is a serious health risk for all individuals. The smoking ordinance change addresses these serious public health concerns.

There is due concern about an expected economic impact on bars. My understanding is that the business of bars is the sale of liquor and alcoholic beverages. The new smoking ordinance does not regulate or limit the sale of alcoholic beverages or spirits at any bar or restaurant in any way. It does not dictate the size of drinks, the amount of liquors served, the time during which a bar may operate, or how many drinks a customer may enjoy.

In short, the ordinance introduces no restrictions on the lawful business of bars or their licenses.

What the new smoking ordinance does do is protect all who enter any public enclosed space from the dangerous affects of second hand smoke.

Urbana sought to have the smoking ordinance begin in August, when the weather was warm, people could sit at outside tables to smoke, and the expected transition time for businesses would be easier. Local bar owners and their attorney petitioned for more time to get ready. Urbana therefore delayed activation of the ordinance for bars by six months, to allow them to build, enclose, heat, or otherwise prepare outside areas for the greater comfort of their patrons. No special building permit applications were initiated by any bar owner in Urbana during the six month period in which this delay was granted.

Public officials are required to act to support and protect public health and the general good. I hope that those who wish to enjoy a smoke at any public place, be it restaurant, or bar, will honor the ordinance and take a few minutes to step outside to light up. Just ask the bartender to save your drink for you. Other patrons will be grateful.

Dennis Roberts

Urbana