While there may be dual proposals to lift Illinois' three-year-old smoking ban, Chicago’s Respiratory Health Association believes the public is firmly in their corner
"With all respect to the casinos, this isn't about money," said president Joel Africk. "This is about health."
Africk points to a survey his organization took in Chicago last fall. Of those who responded, 79 percent said they supported the Illinois smoking policy, including 59 percent who identified themselves as smokers. Another 32 percent said they would even pay extra for an apartment, if it was smoke free.
"The idea of a smoking license is ridiculous," said Africk. "We're talking about public health, not some amusement park concession."
But some bar owners say they felt the pinch almost immediately.
"All I want to do is to run my business, and pretty much be left alone," says Pat Carroll, owner of the Crowbar on Chicago’s far southeast side. "I'm lucky if I break even every year."
Since day one, Carroll has openly defied the smoking ban in his establishment. Patrons are allowed to smoke, and he says many take advantage of that freedom.
"I do believe that I’ve got a lot of customers simply because they know they can come in here and smoke, and I'll absorb the fine," he says. And he has been fined. Twice.
Crowbar sits a mere three blocks from the Indiana state line, where smoking laws are much more liberal. Carroll says that hurts his business, because prospective patrons know they can smoke in bars just a few blocks over the line.
"There's a lot of people who don't come in here, because they don’t think you can smoke in Illinois."
Still, he admits he is wary of inspectors and the potential for more citations from the city or state.
"I worry about that every single morning," he said.