Possible Tweaks to Smoke-Free Law

Jan 21, 2013

Customers at Illinois bars might be able to smoke at bars again. As long as they take it outside.A new measure in the state legislature would allow smoking in beer gardens, as long as it takes place 15 feet from the entrance.   Currently, smokers are required to leave the premises.

Credit IDPH

Senator David Koehler, a Democrat from Peoria, sponsored the proposal. He says he believes the measure would not weaken the statewide smoking ban. Instead, he says,  it would clarify a hazy issue. 

"I think the general thought is on the Smoke Free Illinois Act is there would be outdoor areas that would be exempt from that." -Senator David Koehler

Koehler says no establishment would be required to allow smoking in a beer garden. While opponents agree outdoor patios should be addressed ... they are concerned about employees' exposure to secondhand smoke. Kathy Drea is a vice-president of advocacy with the American Lung Association. She says she agrees something needs to be done with outdoor patios ... but isn't sure this is the way to do it. 

"How do you not expose a worker to secondhand smoke? There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, indoors or outdoors." - Kathy Drea

Drea says she and the Smokefree Illinois Coalition hope to introduce their own proposal in early February. About the Smoke-Free Illinois Act Illinois Public Radio's Chris Slaby contributed to this report.