Survey shows Illinois likes being smoke-free
It's been five years since Illinois snuffed out smoking in most public spaces, and the move has been accepted, according to a study by the Illinois Lung Association.
Updated: February 4, 2013 6:35AM
HINSDALE — It’s been five years since the Smoke-free Illinois Act sent smokers outside.
And according to a survey conducted by the American Lung Association in Illinois, voters like the change. The survey, which questioned 601 randomly selected voters, found that more than two-thirds strongly support the legislation, which since Jan. 1, 2008, prohibits smoking in virtually all public places, including restaurants and bars.
“Illinois residents are overwhelmingly positive about our smokefree state,” said former Democratic state Rep. Karen Yarborough, sponsor of the bill. “Overall support for the law is significant at 77 percent and includes support from all regions of the state, among men and women, (and) all age groups.”
Although some bar and restaurant owners predicted ill effects from the smokefree law, the Illinois Liquor Control Commission reports 500 more liquor licenses were issued statewide in fiscal 2012 than in fiscal 2007, before the Smoke Free Illinois Act went in effect.
But that doesn’t mean bars aren’t huring.
“It was a financial disaster,” said John “Jack” Tracy, owner of Tracy’s Tavern in Clarendon Hills. “It was the worst thing that could possibly happen to us,” along with the collapse of the housing market and the recession, he said.
“We lost 25 percent of our business. Tell me a company that can take a 25 percent hit and survive,” Tracy said.
His bar has survived by cutting the staff to the bone.
Patrons used to come for a two-hour visit and smoke and drink at the same time.
“Now they go outside to smoke for 25 percent of the time they are here,” which reduces the amount they drink, Tracy said.
“Every cigarette in the ashtray is a cocktail to me,” Tracy said.
At least the statewide ban puts all Illinois businesses in the same boat, unlike local ordinances which could cause smokers to go to neighboring towns, Tracy said.
Hinsdale passed a local smoking ban a year before the state.
Tom Thomos, who has owned the Grant Square restaurant in Hinsdale for the past four years, said the smoking ban is better for his restaurant, because he doesn’t have to separate smokers from non-smokers.
“It’s easier because you have less nuisances for the customers,” he said.
“It has been no inconvenience,” Thomos said. “I sell pancakes and eggs and breakfast. If I sold alcohol and spirits, it might be different.”
The lung association survey indicates even smokers support the law, with 53 percent in favor and 42 percent opposing the state’s smoke-free policy.
Residents of suburban Cook County and the collar counties of Chicago are among the biggest supporters of the smoke-free law. The association’s survey shows that 85 percent of Cook County suburbanites totally support the law, while just 12 percent totally oppose. In the rest of the suburbs, 82 percent strongly support the law, while 14 percent oppose. DuPage County responses were not reported separately.