The rumors of
area establishments no longer following the ban and an additional
rumor that one tavern has placed ashtrays out began after a Bureau
County judge dismissed charges against a Burbank man who was fined
for smoking in an area tavern. The judge based his decision on the
fact that without a formulated due process for defendants to appeal
or dispute their fines, the law is unconstitutional and
County Department of Public Health and all county public
health agencies were given the unfunded mandate of enforcing the
law -- a law that Hilliard admits is a "poor piece of legislation." Hilliard pointed out that without funding, the agency has no manpower
available after normal business hours to patrol area establishments.
"We have no resources to conduct 'stings' or to monitor businesses
after hours," he said.
it understood, however, that such facts do not mean that the
Department of Public
Health isn't doing anything, and such claims are not
factual. To date the agency has received 18 complaints of
noncompliance with the law in our county. Of those, five were
demographics of the complaints were about evenly split between city of
Lincoln and county businesses, with 85 percent of the establishments being
bars or taverns.
businesses allegedly allowing smoking on the premises received
letters from the Department of Public Health stating that a complaint had
been filed against their establishment. The letter restated the law
to the establishment owner.
second-time complaints received secondary letters, again explaining
the law. In addition, someone from the health department visited the
establishment to look for signs that they were ignoring the law,
including smoking, while they were investigating the complaint of
ashtrays out in the business. It was discussed that one such
complaint at a business could be an oversight or error that is not
normally the case at that business. "The litmus test for us is
subsequent complaints on that business," Hilliard said.
Additionally, the health department notifies Lincoln's city
attorney and the Logan County state's attorney of all complaints that
are acted on.
There have been
no businesses ticketed by the agency so far. With the fine suspect
of being dismissed in a court of law, it is questionable if it would
do any good to do so.
That does not
mean violators cannot or will not receive severe penalties if they
ignore the Smoke Free Illinois Act in Logan County. Hilliard stated
that such establishments could have their food or liquor licenses
suspended or revoked, as both licenses include wording that the
business will be in compliance with all other federal and Illinois
laws, which would include the Smoke Free Illinois Act.
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Hilliard did not accept as an excuse
that establishments have no control over clients smoking. When a
person has had too much to drink, "they can refuse to over-serve
customers and can ask them to leave. They can do the same with
It was also
pointed out that it is unfair for businesses honoring the law to
allow other businesses to ignore the ban. Hilliard mentioned that several
businesses have built expensive beer gardens to be in compliance with
that the country is in a "culture of change" when it comes to
smoking habits, mentioning that a voluntary ban on smoking was
growing rapidly with Logan County establishments before the law was
established. The law just made the change encompass every business.
"For some businesses (those that had voluntarily banned smoking),
the law was a relief. It created a level playing field," Hilliard
that the process to determine that a business is ignoring the law is
difficult as well as slow, especially with anonymous complaints that
aren't specific as to date, time and place. Care must also be taken
that someone isn't just filing a complaint to get back at a dram
owner for some other problem the individual has had with the bar or
hopeful in his belief that when the legislature comes back into
session, the flaws in the law will be addressed and changed to make
the law enforceable. "Smoke Free Illinois isn't going to go away,"
interested in more information about the law or how to file a
complaint on the Web, they can go to
www.smokefreeillinois.org or call the toll-free state
number 866-973-4646. Names of complainants are considered