Way to Butt Out, Chicago

Very few businesses in Chicago have violated the year-old smoking ban

By Matt Bartosik
|  Friday, Nov 21, 2008  |  Updated 7:40 AM CDT
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Way to Butt Out, Chicago

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Nearly one year after the statewide smoking ban took effect, less than 50 food-related businesses have been issued a citation.

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It's been nearly one year since the statewide smoking ban took effect. How have Chicago businesses been coping?

The Department of Public Health has ticketed less than 50 restaurants for violating the smoking ban this year. Even better, not a single office or non-food business has been cited.

Typically, citations are the result of customer complaints (via 311 calls, e-mail, or mail) or inspections by the department's sanitarians. The public health department sends a business a warning letter after one complaint and issues an inspection after a third reported violation.

"Fortunately, the warning letters appear to work quite well," department spokesman Tim Hadac told the RedEye.

The Illinois smoking ban began in January, prohibiting smoking in all public places, restaurants, bars, indoor theatres, and other businesses. Smoking is also forbidden within 15 feet of any entrance, exit, or window of a business where smoking is prohibited. A smoker who violates the ban can be fined between $100 and $250.

Allegations of smoking violations have declined over time. There were 121 complaints in January, but only 24 in September.

"Predictably, though, as Chicagoans get used to the new law and as smoking continues to be less socially acceptable everywhere, the monthly numbers are dropping," said Hadac.

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