I was dismayed with the village trustees who voted against the smoke-free ordinance on March 7, all the while portraying themselves as white knights protecting Oak Park businesses. Despite evidence to the contrary, they stated as fact the notion that a ban would hurt businesses. Moreover, health concerns were hardly mentioned at all.
The debate is not over. Here are ten important reasons to still support a smoking ban in public places, a change supported by two-thirds of Oak Parkers:
1. Smoky air contains carcinogens.
The scientific and medical community has concluded that second hand smoke is a serious health threat. It contains more than 4,000 chemicals, of which 69 are cancer-causing agents (carcinogens).
2. Smoky air makes employees sick.
The scientific and medical community has also concluded that employees working in smoky restaurants and bars are exposed to high concentrations of toxic air pollution for hours on end, and they are significantly more likely to experience health problems such as asthma attacks, lung cancer and coronary heart disease.
3. "Right to choose" is a smokescreen.
Businesses in Oak Park should have the right to choose how they operate, unless their choices threaten the health and safety of employees and/or patrons.
4. Clean air is fundamental.
Breathing clean air is just as important as eating safe food and drinking clean water.
5. The sky won't fall on restaurants and bars.
Ten states and more than 1,600 municipalities prohibit smoking in indoor public places. Every legitimate, peer-reviewed economic study demonstrates that these limits have had neutral or positive effects on businesses.
6. We cannot trust the tobacco industry.
Only studies funded or commissioned by the tobacco industry have shown a negative impact on businesses, and the tobacco industry simply cannot be trusted.
7. If you ban it, they (non-smokers) will come.
Restaurant and bar owners don't see the many customers who never come because the indoor air is too polluted. Only 18 percent of Oak Parkers smoke, and 28 percent of them support a smoke-free ordinance! Moreover, most smokers adjust and continue to patronize businesses after a ban takes effect.
8. A statewide ban starts in Oak Park.
Some trustees say we should wait for a statewide smoking ban to pass. Don't (do?) hold your breath. Legislation to create a statewide law is DOA in Springfield thanks to the tobacco industry and the Illinois Restaurant Association. This won't change unless communities like Oak Park?#34;one of only 20 communities in Illinois that are allowed by state law to prohibit smoking in public places?#34;apply pressure by adopting local ordinances.
9. Reduce tobacco use and save lives.
Smoke-free policies help people smoke less and even quit altogether.
10. Most Oak Parkers want it.
A professional survey plus thousands of petitions, phone calls and e-mails in support of a smoke-free ordinance demonstrated this fact convincingly.