Keep smoking ban mostly in place

By Editorial Board

The Executive Committee of the Illinois House approved two bills on March 9 that would amend the state’s indoor smoking ban, which was enacted in 2008. One bill would allow smoking in separated rooms in Illinois casinos, and the other would allow local governments to issue smoking licenses to bars, adult entertainment establishments and private clubs.

Proponents of the casino bill claim Illinois casinos are losing revenue to those in neighboring states, such as Indiana, Iowa and Missouri, which have not banned smoking. Under the bill, gambling institutions could allow smoking in specifically designated rooms with specialized air filtration systems to keep smoke from reaching the rest of the building. If smoking rooms would draw more money into Illinois casinos and help alleviate some of the state’s gargantuan debt—and if the state could take in more funds from the licensing of such rooms—it may be a smart move.

Allowing local governments to grant smoking licenses to bars, on the other hand, could do more harm than good. Casinos are a specific, specialized type of establishment, and smoking rooms would be completely separated from the rest of the business. However, licensed bars would subject employees and nonsmoking patrons to secondhand smoke throughout the building. Such businesses would be unable to realistically keep smoke—and the harmful health effects that come with it—away from people who don’t want anything to do with it.

Additionally, licensing certain bars and clubs would open the doors for restaurants, music venues and other types of businesses to lobby for smoking licenses. If every public place could simply pay a fee to circumvent the law, it would undermine the ban’s authority and undo everything the law has achieved.

While smokers certainly have the right to smoke if they want to, nonsmokers also have the right to breathe clean air and not have their health compromised by others’ decisions. Illinois’ smoking ban helped make public places around the city healthier and more pleasant. Separate smoking rooms in casinos wouldn’t have much of an effect on that progress, and any further compromise on the issue would be a mistake.