Chicago to enact indoor smoking ban

By James Ewert U-WIRE

CHICAGO – For months, aldermen have debated and put off deciding whether smoking should be banned in the city, and they have finally reached a conclusion: Chicago will be smoke-free – eventually.

The city council voted Dec. 7 to pass a compromise ordinance, effectively banning smoking in all indoor public places, eventually including all bars and restaurants.

The ban, which goes into effect Jan. 16, 2006, will require all public indoor places to go smoke-free and gives restaurants, bars and stand-alone taverns until July 8, 2008, to do so. Violators will face fines from $100 to $500, while owners and managers that fail to comply would face a fine of $100 or less for the first offense and a fine of no more than $500 for the second offense.

“This was a very tough issue and an issue that’s not finished. We have a lot of work to do over the next two and a half years.”

Natarus said he and his colleagues stayed up until 3 a.m. the morning of the Dec. 7 meeting trying to find a compromise that combined the two previously proposed ordinances. The first ordinance, proposed by Alderman Ed Smith of the 28th Ward, called for the elimination of smoking in all public indoor places with no exceptions. The second ordinance, proposed by Natarus, called for the elimination of smoking in most public places, but had exceptions for stand alone restaurant bars and taverns.

“It’s a rare opportunity for us, as a [legislative] body, to save lives. Today we have that opportunity,” Smith said.

Chicago will join New York, Boston, Los Angeles and a long list of other U.S. cities that have passed smoking bans. Chicago’s ban, however, is foggy because it has one possible loophole: If establishments can prove that ventilation and filtration systems can completely clear the air, they may be exempt.

Jessica Correa, a senior photography major at Columbia, said if she had the choice between going to the suburbs and smoking or staying in the city and not, she most likely would go to the suburbs.

“It sucks for diners,” Correa said. “Restaurant owners should be able to decide.”

Others, however, support the ban.

“I like being able to go to places and not have to smell smoke,” said Natalie Hall, a first-year graduate student at Roosevelt University. “It’s better for my health.”