Sunday, January 4, 2009

IL smokers owners adapt to smoking ban: article

The title of this IL-based article I found is misleading. I neva adapted to the smoking ban. I just found ways to work around it...the loopholes as some calL it.

I'm sure owners "adapted to the ban" all right. How the heck is a casino business supposed to be happy about smoke-free air when the IL smokers are taking their chips and money to Missouri casinos indeed.

I hope the ACS is aware I see no significant improvement in my health a year lata. I feel just about as fine before even Chicago had a smoking ban. Not going out at all is how most smokers "adapt to bans."

I'm "used to tbe ban" all right too. I'm used to hiding myself from sick smoke authorities and sick antis who wave their Fkin hands as they walk past me. But I ain't new to hiding period from goodies in society eitha.

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January 4, 2009

A year ago, smokers were inhaling their last puffs of tobacco in their favorite watering holes and restaurants.

Eateries, bars and casinos were crying foul, bracing for the drop in revenues they expected as a result when smokers were forced outside.

Non-smokers were counting the days until the statewide ban on the habit was in place.

Today, those with a penchant for butts haul themselves into court to contest smoking tickets. Or they brave winter winds for the toasted taste.

Casinos say they're losing money, especially near borders with neighboring states, where customers have moved across the state line to gamble because they can smoke there.

And the Legislature is still working to clear up enforcement of the ban that prohibits smoking in and within 15 feet of public places.

Yet, by most accounts, it appears the Southland has adjusted to a smoke-free lifestyle, despite a rocky start, with disgruntled smokers pushed outdoors during January cold.

"They weathered the storm," said David Seaman, a Tinley Park Village trustee who is on the American Cancer Society's national board of directors. "Not all smokers are surly people. I just don't think it was quite the issue that people feared early on."

Seaman and anti-smoking advocates insist the ban will reduce lung cancer cases and the number addicted. Some point to California, a pioneer in anti-smoking efforts from where studies are proving those theories.

Just last week, a study out of Pueblo, Colo., showed workplace bans led to a 41 percent drop in heart attack hospitalizations three years later. It is considered the best such research linking smoking to heart attacks and also suggests the same link for secondhand smoke.

"You ride by local establishments and you see people standing outside having their cigarette," said state Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan) , a ban sponsor. "I have yet to walk into a place where somebody's smoking inside. You're always going to have the naysayers."

Casinos say smoke breaks are costly

But the gambling industry says its customers aren't quitting, they're moving their chips across the border to Missouri, Indiana and Iowa, where they can puff on a smoke while placing their bets.

In fact, the Illinois Casino Gaming Association estimates revenues for the state's nine casinos were down more than 20 percent from January to November 2008 compared with that time period in 2007, before the act was implemented.

While the economy undoubtedly has contributed to this, said its executive director Tom Swoik, Indiana casino revenues are up 1.5 percent, Missouri's increased 5.7 percent and Iowa's 5.6 percent.

That comparison - for casinos in the same markets with mirrored economies and weather - shows that "it's got to be because of (smoking)," Swoik said.

Gamblers who do stick arund Illinois casinos spent less time gambling because they had to step outside for smoke breaks.

"In this industry ... time is money," Swoik said.

Industry lobbyists hope to push lawmakers in Springfield for an exemption to allow smoking on casino floors. Proponents of the ban contend revenue declines cannot solely be attributed to the smoking restrictions.

"Every time we have an opportunity, we will attempt to do something to try and get some kind of relief for this," Swoik said.

Also on the Legislature' s agenda: Issues related to enforcing the smoking ban still need to be cleared up.

A state commission implementing and regulating administrative rules that was to address those details did not because of a separate legal battle with the governor. Instead, ban supporters have introduced a measure that includes, among other details, a process for people to contest citations and specific rules about who regulates the citations. They hope for passage this spring.

"Throughout the state, enforcement varies widely," said Daniel Clausner, executive director of the Illinois Licensed Beverage Association. "Our association still holds the opinion that independent businesses should be able to decide if theirs is a smoke-free or smoke-friendly business."

Because local law enforcement agencies and county health departments can regulate the ban with no one clearinghouse overseeing it, it is unclear exactly how many citations have been issued since enactment.

The state department of public health reports 17 citations issued throughout Illinois and more than 5,200 complaints lodged.

In Cook County, the health department said five citations were doled out and nearly 650 complaints called in, said Amy Poore, its spokeswoman.

The Will County Health Department, which partners local police departments on the issue, said it has issued 10 tickets. Through November, more than 200 complaints were received there as well, said Vic Reato, department media services manager.

"Overall, it has gone about as good as it could go," said Steve Tilton, Tinley Park assistant village manager. "After about two months, it really wasn't an issue at all. "

'We've accommodated it as best we can'

The success of the smoke-free act is measured by many Southland agencies in its equality.

Smokers can't take a five minute ride to a neighboring city to light up, which had been a concern of restaurants and other service industries when municipalities - Orland Park, Tinley Park and Oak Forest - went smoke-free on their own in 2007. The bans were lifted weeks later when establishments complained of customers doing just that. Orland Park reinstated the ban in March of that year.

"It totally leveled the playing field," said Orland Park Police Chief Timothy McCarthy. "I give them credit because they complied."

Popular Tinley Park pizzeria Ed 'N Joe's has been smoke-free for nearly two years, continuing the ban even when the village reneged on it. Some bar regulars haven't returned since, but the pizzeria sees more restaurant patrons because they no longer had to wait for a table near a smoke-filled bar, said Michael Clark, who owns the eatery with his wife, Ellen.

"By the time the state enacted it, we were already established as a non-smoking place so, we didn't have to take that hit in January," he said. "Our customers were already used to it."

The Clarks did add on a smoking shelter - dubbed "the penalty box" - as did Sam Maguire's in Orland Park, to draw smokers. Maguire's shelter can usually be found jammed on popular nights there.

"They're definitely coming here for that," said Jane Wilke, a restaurant partner. "We've accommodated it as best we can within the law."

A handful of smokers huddled at Ed 'N Joe's for post-work drinks one Tuesday night said they've adjusted since going smoke free.

"It actually helps," said Kevin Elitzer, 25, of Tinley Park. "I won't go outside. I smoke less."

But friend Steven Burch, also 25 and of Tinley Park, said the law steps on his right to light up.

"It's just another right they take away," he said. "If I didn't smoke, I just wouldn't go there."

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