Mt. Vernon Register-News

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December 27, 2012

Illinois celebrates smoke free anniversary

MT. VERNON — — Five years have passed since the Smoke Free Illinois Act was passed. Since then, there have been mixed reviews on how businesses have been affected.

Judy McLaughlin, a health educator with the Jefferson County Health Department, said most businesses in Mt. Vernon are in compliance with the law set in place five years ago.

“A lot of places have been talking about how much healthier it is for their employees and their patrons,” McLaughlin said. “We are just seeing it evolve.”

The employees at the health department are still working to provide education to restaurants, bars and other businesses that may be have complaints about compliance or other violations of the Smoke Free Illinois Act.

According to a press release by the Jefferson County Health Department, the law was designed to help protect employees and citizens from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.

The health department will investigate any complaints and also ask that anyone with a complaint about smoking law compliance contact them. If the business is found to be in breaking the law, citations or fines will be issued by the inspector, McLaughlin said.

She also said the health department offers smoking cessation options and with new year resolutions coming up, it is a good place to start for those who do smoke.

“We are just encouraging people to quit smoking,” she said. “It’s a good way to start the new year off healthier.”

Local businesses have received mixed reviews on what their patrons think of the anti-smoking laws.

Tanya Eblen, manager at Silver Streak Restaurant and Lounge, said business has gotten better since the SFIA was put into place.

“It has only affected our business in a positive way,” Eblen said. “We went smoke free over a year before that was the law. We gained a lot of customers.”

Eblen said that while bar patrons complained, those who came in to eat were happy with the new law. She said the restaurant gained more family business, even though initial reactions to banning smoking was that Silver Streak would lose business and have to close.

“We really didn’t lose much business,” she said. “There is always going to be negative [comments], but only about 25 percent of people smoke now days, if that.”

The restaurant is only one room, so there were no sections for smokers and non-smokers before the law was enacted.

“As an employee, myself, I was happy about it,” Eblen said.

Other business did not receive the positive comments like those at Silver Streak, though. For example, Spot Tavern lost a lot of business because of the smoking ban. Sandy Scott, a bar maid at Spot Tavern, said on Sunday she used to make about $900, which went down to $400 after the anti-smoking laws were enacted.

“It makes business bad,” Scott said. “They are not coming in because they can’t smoke.”

Scott’s co-worker, Linda Bochantin, who is a bartender, said she works the night shift and there has been a drop in business.

“With it being a bar, it has hurt a lot,” she said. “I can tell a big difference.”

She said patrons have told here if they cannot smoke in the bar then they just won’t come in at all, especially in bad weather, when it is cold or raining.

Mike Carbonaro, the general manager at Holiday Inn in Mt. Vernon, said there have been mixed reviews about the smoking ban, but business has not been affected. The hotel is getting about the same amount of traffic it always has and there are still smoking rooms for the customers who want them.

Smoking is not permitted in the lobby and there were some complaints, Carbonaro said. There were some complaints when the lobby went smoke free, but that was overcome. People can still smoke in their private rooms, although some rooms have a balcony that faces the lobby and they cannot smoke there, Carbonaro added.

“If you are a smoker you want to have my hotel, if you are a non-smoker you can choose,” he said, explaining that other hotels in the area are smoke free.

He said he would like to eliminate smoking from his hotel because of maintenance costs.

“Just from a maintenance point to view... It’s about an additional $500 to $600 a year to keep the rooms non smoke stained,” Carbonaro said.

Anyone who wants to file a complaint of non compliance can contact the Jefferson County Health Department at 24-7134.

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