Oak Brook adapting to smoke-free Illinois
Oak Brook, 12/27/12--Frank Amabile waits for a couple of friends at the bar in J. Alexander's. Amabile quit smoking about six years ago after he discovered he had lung cancer. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 4, 2013 1:49AM
OAK BROOK — It’s been five years since the Smoke-free Illinois Act sent smokers outside.
And according to a survey conducted by the American Lung Association in Illinois, voters like the change. The survey, which questioned 601 randomly selected voters, found that more than two-thirds strongly support the legislation, which since Jan. 1, 2008, prohibits smoking in virtually all public places, including restaurants and bars.
“Illinois residents are overwhelmingly positive about our smokefree state,” said former Democratic state Rep. Karen Yarborough, sponsor of the bill. “Overall support for the law is significant at 77 percent and includes support from all regions of the state, among men and women, all age groups and all political persuasions. Perhaps.”
Although some bar and restaurant owners predicted ill effects from the smokefree law, bill sponsor Sen. Terry Link, D-30th of Waukegan, said there is evidence to the contrary. The Illinois Liquor Control Commission Fiscal Year reports show that 500 more liquor licenses were issued statewide in fiscal 2012 than in fiscal 2007, before the Smoke Free Illinois Act was implemented.
Ryan Kavanaugh, general manager at J. Alexander’s restaurant in Oak Brook, said the restaurant has not seen any direct effect from the smoking laws.
He said he has noticed a decrease in the number of smokers over the last few years. Fewer people, he said, are gathering to smoke in the designated outdoor area.
One place where smoking is still allowed is Oakbrook Tobacco, but co-owner Jason Wagner said that has done little to help business, which he said has suffered since the smoke-free law went into effect.
“It’s tough. The smoking ban hurts,” Wagner said.
But the law is only partly to blame. Federal and state taxes added to each tobacco purchase and internet sales also have cut into sales at the Oak Brook store, Wagner said.
Smokers also are smoking less, Wagner said. He said smokers today might enjoy one cigar a week, while customers in the past would smoke many more.
Wagner said he estimates sales at the Oak Brook store, and industrywide, are decreasing by about 10 percent each year.
“I know I’ve lost a lot of business because of it,” he said.
The lung association survey indicates even smokers support the law, with 53 percent in favor and 42 percent opposing the state’s smoke-free policy.
Residents of suburban Cook County and the collar counties of Chicago are among the biggest supporters of the smoke-free law. The association’s survey shows that 85 percent of Cook County suburbanites totally support the law, while just 12 percent totally oppose. In the rest of the suburbs, 82 percent strongly support the law, while 14 percent oppose.