Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Public Smoking Ban Passes Senate

The Illinois Senate voted 34-23 last week to pass Senate Bill 500, the Smoke Free Illinois Act, which would prohibit smoking in public places such as restaurants.

The bill "prohibits smoking in public places, places of employment, and governmental vehicles," according to the state's synopsis. It also prohibits "smoking within a minimum distance of 15 feet from entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes that serve an enclosed area where smoking is prohibited."

Southern Illinois' lawmakers from both parties voted against the measure, which isn't surprising as the region boasts (suffers) from some of the highest adult smoking rates in the state.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives. If it passes and the governor signs the bill, Illinois will become the 16th state in the nation to pass such legislation since New York became the first in 2001.

In case some might wonder why the bill is needed. Here's what the Illinois Department of Public Health says:
More than 20,000 Illinoisans die each year as a result of cigarette smoking. Nationally, smoking is responsible for one of every five deaths. In fact, cigarette smoking kills more Americans than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, drugs and fires combined.

In 2003, 24.3 percent of all adults in Illinois smoked compared to 22.1 percent nationwide. Even scarier was the fact that a 2002 survey showed 29.2 percent of high school students smoked cigarettes.

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