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Enforcement of Smoke-Free Act changed

Smoke-Free Act
During Thursday’s regular meeting of the Knox County Board of Health, Samuel Jarvis presented information about how enforcement of the Smoke-Free Illinois Act has changed in Galesburg.

Jarvis concluded the city’s decision to pass an ordinance in 2010 that mirrored the state’s SFI Act gave the Galesburg Police Department new teeth in the effort to curb smoking in establishments that serve the public.

An intern at the Knox County Health Department and master’s in public health candidate from Western Illinois University, Jarvis outlined how — after the passage of the SFI Act in 2008 — counties found they had no real mechanism in place to enforce the law.

“After the law passed, complaints about an establishment were directed to the Illinois Department of Public Health through its website,” Jarvis explained. “Those complaints were then processed through local health departments. It was basically a matter of administrative law.

“The problem came when the citations were taken to court and dismissed because the citing officer or health department official was not in court. Often, the health department was never notified of the hearing.”

Jarvis said that when cities started passing look-alike ordinances, the cities had a better way to cite and prosecute individuals and businesses for violating the SFI Act.

Galesburg adopted an ordinance in 2010 that mirrored the SFI Act and issue citations based on violations of the city ordinance. Police officers can also issue citations to bar and tavern owners for allowing smoking.

“Those citations could ultimately impact a bar’s liquor license,” Jarvis said. “The goal is to make the bar owner more responsive to the law.”

Jarvis explained the majority of complaints about SFI violations in Galesburg originated in bars and taverns. Most complaints came in late 2009 and early 2010.

Jarvis also addressed the claims that the SFI Act has negatively impacted the hospitality industry’s profits.

“The law went into effect in January 2008 — about one month after what most experts agree was the start of the recession,” Jarvis said. “The law — according to a number of peer-reviewed studies — hasn’t driven away business. In some cases, it has helped.

“But the downturn in the hospitality industry has much more to do with the recession than any smoking laws.”

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