Smoking ban gets more background

By Michael Swiontek

The DeKalb City Council took part in another deadlocked round in the continuing fight between willing firsthand and reluctant secondhand smokers.

The council chambers were packed with most people wearing a patch stating “Support Hospitality Business, Oppose the Smoking Ban.”

The Illinois Licensed Beverage Association presented its position on the proposed smoking ban in DeKalb.

“I hope you understand the devastation that will be caused by this,” said Steve Riedl, ILBA Executive Director.

Smoking should be banned in public places with the exception of liquor pouring establishments, Riedl said. ILBA presented 1,444 petition signatures against a smoking ban, of which 910 were from admitted smokers.

By forcing people outside, there are issues with noise at late hours and littering, he said.

“These things don’t have their intended outcome. The highest per capita alcohol consumption in this country occurred during Prohibition,” Riedl said.

Riedl spoke for about an hour and presented examples of other communities that have invoked smoking bans only to be hurt economically. Letters from business owners in the Chicagoland suburbs of Wilmette and Skokie complained they suffered great losses after enacting smoking bans.

Minneapolis and Madison, Wis. are looking at reversing smoking bans to a proposal similar to what the ILBA is presenting, Riedl said.

“Estimated loss in tax revenue for 2006 for the city of DeKalb would be $225,000 to $450,000,” Riedl said.

Some aldermen questioned the validity of the presentation Riedl gave.

“Your presentation is anecdotal and not research-based,” said Second Ward Alderman Kris Povlsen.

The Third Ward alderman agreed with Povlsen’s assessment.

“This presentation was different from the other side because they presented a lot of studies,” said Third Ward Alderman Steve Kapitan.

The concern of DeKalb losing business to nearby communities also reared its head at the meeting on Monday night as well.

“We are faced with the argument of whether people are going to go to Sycamore,” said 6th Ward Alderman Dave Baker. Baker asked the ILBA to provide information about the possible negative impact in similar communities.

There were several pauses for applause during the meeting. After the presentation, a member of the community interrupted.

“Why is this being limited to two sides?” said DeKalb resident and Elks club member Ed Pevonka. He was concerned with the definition of a public place.

At least one alderman fully supports the proposed ban.

“It’s a public health issue. I’m for a full smoking ban,” Povlsen said.

Povlsen said he would like the ban to stay away from private clubs.

Outsiders from the American Cancer Society and the ILBA add resources and expertise to this issue and help supporters of their cause to organize.

To depict a potential situation, Riedl said while he was in San Francisco he observed a “smoke-easy” where, despite a smoking ban, the police were paid off and the place was full of