Businesses, Smoke-Free OP attempt compromise

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Business leaders and members of Smoke-Free Oak Park held a meeting Monday morning to see if they could find a common ground solution to an issue that has bitterly divided the health and business communities.

As of press time, the Oak Park Health Board was set to hold a public hearing Tuesday night on a proposal to ban smoking at all in-door workplaces.

Smoke-Free Oak Park member David Ansell said the meeting with businesses was "cordial," but that they ultimately "agreed to disagree, and not be disagreeable about it."

"What's driving us is good public health data. There is no published peer-reviewed data that smoking bans hurt the economy," he said. "But we're dealing with a very anxious business community."

Ansell said his organization is unwilling to accept anything other than a full ban on smoking, but is open to looking at ways to "phase in" a ban.

Meanwhile, businesses say they are unwilling to accept a full ban, no matter how it's phased in.

"It didn't seem like we made any progress," said Donna Ogdon Chen, director of Downtown Oak Park. "Those in favor of the ban are completely tuned in to the health issue. They're not willing to seriously look at the economic impact."

"It's still a smoking ban, no matter what day of the week it is," she added, on the subject of phasing. "We're interested in looking more at financial incentives to improve ventilation systems and education."

Ogdon Chen said she believes someday restaurants may all be smoke free, but "we'll let the market dictate what happens."

Both parties are still open to having further conversations, though positions on both sides remain far apart.

?#34;Katharine Grayson

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