Phone: 630-495-2282 Fax: 630-495-2260 Map/Directions

New Year law to snuff workplace butts

November 17, 2010
Fines start at $100 for smoker, $250 for business

Illinois on Jan. 1 becomes the 22nd state to enact a law against smoking at workplaces. It will be one of the nation’s strongest such laws, and it supersedes Chicago’s smoking ban, which gave bars and restaurants until July 1 to comply.

It will be prohibited to smoke inside all public places and most places of employment, or within 15 feet of any entrance to those places. Retail tobacco stores and some other places are exempt from the new law. Also, no person may smoke in any vehicle owned, leased, or operated by the state government or a political subdivision.

Employers must conspicuously post at all entrances "No Smoking" signs or the international no-smoking symbol—cigarette within red circle and diagonal red line—and remove all ashtrays from any area where smoking is prohibited.

A person who smokes in an area where smoking is prohibited shall be fined not less than $100 and not more than $250. The business owner shall be fined not less than $250 for the first violation, not less than $500 for the second violation within one year after the first violation, and not less than $2,500 for each additional violation within one year after the first violation.

Secondhand tobacco smoke—which can cause heart disease, stroke, cancer, among other maladies—is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United Sates. It kills at least 65,000 deaths annually, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The U.S. Surgeon General’s ’06 report determined there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

But implementing the law during the coldest month of the year could lead to exposure to frostbite. That has provided a greater sense of urgency to some who want to quit smoking.

"There are always people who decide to quit on New Year’s, and the ban provides much more of an impetus," said Joel Africk, president of the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. "It’s the golden opportunity."

There is not yet proof that such bans have a direct effect on adult smoking rates, but the rates have dropped significantly in places where the bans were combined with high cigarette taxes and anti-tobacco advertising, said Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University, who has done extensive research on the subject.

Africk said the combined cigarette tax for Chicago, Cook County and Illinois—$3.66 a pack—is the highest in the nation.