In the absence of President John Stroger ( who suffered a stroke the previous evening ) , the Cook County Board passed a new smoking ban March 15 that is even tougher than the one adopted by Chicago. Basically, the ordinance bans smoking in all public places.
The board voted 13-3 for the Cook County Clean Indoor Air Ordinance, which bans smoking in all enclosed and semi-enclosed public areas within the County. ( One person abstained. )
The ban will apply to about 1.7 million residents of Cook County in more than 120 communities, including unincorporated areas and municipalities that currently do not have regulations regarding smoking. The county ban has no exemptions for bars and restaurants andconsidering it goes into effect March 15, 2007has a short grace period for compliance.
According to state law, cities that pass their own measures would be exempt from following the county-approved one. In December, Chicago approved a ban on most public smoking. It took effect Jan. 16, but the City Council gave taverns and bars located inside restaurants until July 1, 2008 to comply.
Under the county ordinance, smoking would be prohibited in all public areas, including workplaces, restaurants and bars, and within 15 feet of any entrance to an enclosed area in which smoking is prohibited. Most private residences would be exempt.
Anyone violating the ordinance could be fined $100. Business owners could be fined $100 for the first violation, $500 for the second within one year and $2,500 for each additional violation within one year.
While many applaud the ban, othersparticularly business ownersinsist that the measure puts a strain on them. George Grivas, the owner of the Franklin Park lesbian club Temptations, feels that nightspots will suffer because the ordinance deprives people of their rights. 'You have to give people a choice,' he told Windy City Times. 'You can have smoking and non-smoking areas in clubs.' [ The Chicago ordinance will allow some spots to have separate areas. ] He also bemoaned the fact that he has 16 ventilation units hanging from the ceiling as well as two huge units on the roof. 'They cost $2,500-$3,000 apiece,' he said. 'But what can I do? I can't put them in storage.'
Referring to the commissioners who approved the measure, Grivas said that 'they're asking for our votes, but they don't have the license to screw us. The only kind of license that lets you do that is a marriage license.' However, unless a change occurs soon, suburban Cook County residents will have to live with the smoking banfor better or for worse.