On January 1st, Illinois finally caught up with most of the rest of the states with major metropolitan areas and enacted its statewide smoking ban in most public places, including bars, restaurants, and other public places. Called the “Smoke Free Illinois Act,” this act trumped the act voted upon by Chicago’s city council in 2005, which was to go into full effect by July of 2008. Therefore, all public places in the city of Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois went smoke free as of New Year’s Day.
As an ardent non-smoker, whose mother is afflicted with lung disease caused by smoking, and who has seen plenty of other loved ones, friends and acquaintances deal with the effects of cigarette smoking and second-hand smoke; I could not be happier.
Gone are the days of smoky bars and clubs and coming home with my clothes and hair reeking of tar and nicotine.
Gone are the days of coughing and wheezing while someone next to me or behind me blows their cancerous fumes in my direction.
Gone are the days of a thick, hazy film hanging in the air as soon as I walk in the door, holding my breath to sustain the glorious fresh air I just came from.
No laments, no regrets. Those days are over. Smokers, take it outside.
Naturally, of course, some people feel their rights are being violated. They believe they have a right to do whatever they want, wherever they want, and a law telling them otherwise violates their own personal freedoms.
I say– OK, I see your point, but my rights are equally being violated by your continued presence in these (formerly) smoky, hazy dens. My right to have healthy lungs, for instance. My right to breathe clean, fresh air. My right to live a longer life and not be afflicted with aggravated asthma or emphysema, or even worse, lung cancer.
You can continue to ruin your lungs all you want. You just have to step outside to do it, preferably about 15 feet away from any entrance.
So, in my view, your rights aren’t being all that affected. You can continue to do what you want. You just have to do it somewhere else, while I enjoy the air you left behind. Seems fair to me.
The other side of the argument was in the eyes of the bar and restaurant owners, who feared they would lose business due to the smoking ban.
To those concerned business owners, I say:
FEAR NOT! For the people will continue to drink. They will continue to eat. They will continue to socialize and mingle and enjoy the atmosphere your establishment has provided in the past. Certainly, your fears were valid before the ban went into effect– if you had gone smoke-free then, chances were they would find another place where they could smoke. But that isn’t the case anymore. EVERYTHING is smoke-free now. So the choice now is to either stay at home or go out and smoke outside. I think the choice will be fairly simple.
After all, if they can handle doing it in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington (source), they can certainly handle doing it in Illinois.
There are, however, millions out there already afflicted with lung disease; and there will be many more. And while I’m sounding rather snarky here about the smoking ban; the fact is that those afflicted need all the help they can get to live better lives.
So that’s why I’m climbing to the top of the John Hancock building on February 24. If you have a few Christmas pennies to spare, help me make my goal of $1,500 by donating to my climb. I’ve already raised an awesome $630- 42% of my goal. And that’s all thanks to your generous donations. The money raised goes to the Respiratory Health Association of Greater Chicago to help fight lung disease and treat those with lung ailments such as asthma, emphysema and lung cancer. If you can, help. It will make the new year that much happier!