Smoking ban won't prevail in all Illinois bars
Do-gooders who love the new smoking ban have to face facts:
It won’t work. Not entirely. Not ever. Not in Illinois. Especially in the Peoria area.
When out-of-town friends have visited me, they’ve invariably made this astute observation: "Man, people around here sure like to smoke."
Yes, they do. And even in public places they won’t stop, regardless of the law.
A story in the paper Tuesday explained that a couple was absolutely flabbergasted to find that the smoking ban hadn’t magically eliminated cigarettes from bars. At a pub outside Peoria, they couldn’t believe they’d found the barkeep and patrons merrily puffing away.
If scofflaw smoking seems shocking, I have sad news for you. You’d better sit down: People don’t always follow the law.
No, really. For instance, you know that ingenious "Just Say No" campaign? Didn’t work. People still do drugs. Incredible, huh? Can you believe those ne’er-do-wells didn’t listen to Nancy Reagan?
Anyway, after leaving the smoky bar the couple called the state’s no-smoking hotline, but the call went to a full voice mailbox. I’m not sure what they expected, maybe a state police S.W.A.T. team to crash through the saloon’s windows as sharp-shooters blast to smithereens the offending cigarette — along with, perhaps, the offending smokers.
Next, the couple phoned the local police, who said the state hasn’t bothered to explain how to enforce the law. Sorry about your luck.
Today a legislative committee is supposed to hash this out. If members take to their task with the General Assembly’s typically speed, expect this to be worked out within a decade.
Let’s look at this realistically. Sure, you can call the cops to report a smoking violation. But they might — just might — have other priorities.
Later, a cop might arrive. But the alleged offenders might be done smoking. Or gone.
If the officer were to smell smoke, perhaps he could charge the saloon owner. But would that hold up in court? A bar owner could argue that the cop had whiffed smoke from patrons’ clothes.
Maybe police could carry tiny balloons and try to capture smoke as evidence. I’m sure they’d love to do so.
Further, who wants to be a witness? You could appear in court, but you’d never be welcome in that bar again.
Even so, it doesn’t matter how many arrests pile up. Folks will smoke in some taverns.
Here’s how it’ll shake out. In the downtowns of cities (Chicago, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield), smoking will vanish because of high visibility. No police force will allow blatant violations in the heart of a city.
But in cities’ neighborhood bars and in small-town saloons, smoking will continue.
I’m not saying that’s legally right, it’s just how it is. The bleeding hearts will have to learn to deal with it. Not everyone wants to be saved by the government.
Meanwhile, they can take up a better cause. Maybe they can get the Legislature to explain why it prohibited smoking among adults in grown-up establishments, but shot down a bill to stop adults from smoking in cars with children present.
Let’s see: In taverns, adults can come and go as they please. But in autos, kids are trapped to suck in smoke. To that, our wise lawmakers said, "To heck with protecting kids — let’s pester grown-ups."
Illinois sure is a funny state. But rarely amusing.
PHIL LUCIANO is a columnist with the Journal Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 686-3155 or (800) 225-5757, Ext. 3155.