Last year at this time, foward-thinking Oak Park was at the vanguard of local cities and towns considering a clean indoor air ordinance. Now, because the previous village trustees failed to pass such an ordinance, Oak Park lags behind communities as diverse as Chicago (who would have thought it!), Deerfield, Highland Park, Skokie and most recently Springfield, which have all passed strong clean indoor air ordinances. Even the Cook County Board is considering passing an ordinance which would exempt Oak Park as a home rule community, creating the potentially ironic scenario whereby all the communities surrounding Oak Park would be smoke-free, with Oak Park an oasis of smoking.
Now is the time for the village board to act decisively and swiftly to pass a comprehensive clean indoor air act modeled on those passed by other communities. The board of health and the community have demonstrated overwhelming support of strict clean indoor air provisions in hearings and in community surveys. The economic arguments against clean indoor air were never supported by the literature and are furthermore moot as Oak Park is now surrounded on two sides by smoke-free Chicago and most of the restaurant opposition have converted their restaurants to smoke-free establishments. Trustees, it is time to act.
We recommend the following "prescription" for the passage of a comprehensive clean indoor air ordinance:
Before the study session on Feb. 27, the trustees should have reviewed the voluminous data sent to them by both sides and presented at the public hearings on the subject in April 2005. The data demonstrates unequivocally that secondhand smoke is a health hazard, dangerous to both patrons and workers exposed in restaurants.
Should the trustees need additional information regarding health or economic issues related to clean indoor air ordinances, they should request that these issues be specifically addressed at the study session by experts in the field.
Should the trustees desire to hear from the citizenry again, we would suggest they have a spokesperson from Smoke Free Oak Park and a spokesperson from the restaurateurs each present testimony at the study session.
The Campaign for a Smoke Free Oak Park has presented the trustees with copies of ordinances that have passed in local Illinois communities as models for an Oak Park ordinance. These should be reviewed and discussed at the study session.
At the March 6 village board meeting, an ordinance should be presented for a vote, the citizenry should have the opportunity for final comment, and the vote should be taken.
This time the trustees have a chance to get it right and have Oak Park join the rest of Illinois communities that are protecting their citizens' right to breathe clean indoor air.
David Ansell, MD, MPH