Might this be the last editorial this page writes about the Smoke Free Illinois Act? With his first pen stroke as the state’s chief executive, Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday signed the bill that should remove the last impediment to enforcing the state’s year-old, comprehensive indoor smoking ban.

Might this be the last editorial this page writes about the Smoke Free Illinois Act?


With his first pen stroke as the state’s chief executive, Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday signed the bill that should remove the last impediment to enforcing the state’s year-old, comprehensive indoor smoking ban.


The bill makes violation of the ban a civil matter between the alleged offender and the Illinois Department of Public Health. Those ticketed for breaking the law will have their cases mediated through IDPH regional offices rather than by the state’s attorney in the county of the offense.


This was an important step in two ways.


First, it removes a convenient excuse for not enforcing the ban. Without clearly defined rules of due process, some officials felt there was no point in writing citations. This had the effect of encouraging some business owners to freely flaunt the ban. (The Sangamon County Health Department deserves credit for devising its own system to make bar owners take the ban seriously. Its threat of liquor license suspensions for smoking violations sent a strong message.)


Second, it keeps smoking violations out of the already overflowing caseloads of state’s attorneys. Placing these cases under the purview of the Department of Public Health reinforces the Smoke Free Illinois Act’s status as a public health measure rather than an attempt to criminalize smoking (a common battle cry in this debate).


Illinois still must be vigilant about future attempts to weaken the smoke-free law. The state’s casinos already have tried to gain an exemption — as if secondhand smoke is not as great a health threat to gamblers as to anyone else. But as far as this page is concerned, Gov. Quinn’s first bill signing removed all official excuses for allowing this important law to be ignored.


State Journal-Register