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updated: 3/10/2011 8:31 AM

Casinos, bars could allow smoking again

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  • Lawmakers are considering relaxing some of the state's smoking laws.

      Lawmakers are considering relaxing some of the state's smoking laws.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
By Jeff Engelhardt

SPRINGFIELD -- Bars, casinos, strip clubs and even American Legion Halls could once again allow smoking indoors if the lawmakers keep pushing legislation to allow it.

A House committee Wednesday approved two proposals that would roll back provisions of the state's indoor smoking ban. One would give certain establishments the ability to apply for a smoking license from their local liquor control commission. The other would exempt casinos from the current smoking ban.

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The plans face a very uncertain future, though. Even if the full House approves, the Senate might be hesitant to follow along. Senate President John Cullerton was an original proponent of the indoor smoking ban.

Health organizations protested loudly.

Kathy Drea, vice president of advocacy for the American Lung Association of Illinois, said secondhand smoke is dangerous no matter how many precautions are taken.

"Smoking licenses, we call those licenses to kill," she said. "Any money made from a smoking license would not cover the eventual medical expenses."

No state has ever weakened its smoking laws.

Tom Swoik, executive director for the Illinois Gaming Casino Association, said state casino revenue has dropped sharply since the smoke free law was enacted. Swoik, who represents the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, among others, said lifting the ban would help the state compete with surrounding states including Indiana, Iowa and Missouri, which have attracted Illinois gamblers who want to smoke.

Should the ban be lifted, it would give Illinois its competitive edge again, he said.

"It would help us create more jobs, it would bring more tax revenue to the cities and it would once again level the playing field with the surrounding communities," he said.

In other legislation, bars, strip clubs and private clubs such as American Legions could allow smoking if they obtain a smoking license from their liquor control commission and meet certain requirements such as air ventilation systems.

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