URBANA – Rebuffed in Champaign, the CU Smokefree Alliance is now asking the Urbana City Council to consider banning smoking in public places.
And Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing said the city will hold at least one public hearing on the issue – though not right away.
"We'll consider it," Prussing said. "It probably won't be until January because we've got so much on our agenda. We'll have a public hearing where people can voice their views."
Prussing said she considers smoking a public health issue.
"I'd like to specifically talk to bar owners and employees and restaurant owners and employees," she said.
Several members of the CU Smokefree Alliance asked the Urbana council Monday night to begin considering some kind of smoking ban.
A similar appeal in Champaign failed when the city council there rejected banning smoking in bars and restaurants in a 5-4 straw poll in September.
Efforts to revive the issue in Champaign appear to have failed after a former supporter of a comprehensive ban, Champaign council member Marci Dodds, said she would abstain from further votes on the issue because her husband is co-owner of a downtown Champaign bar that would be affected by smoking restrictions.
Matt Varble, director of communications for the alliance, said efforts in Champaign are "at a standstill." He asked the Urbana council to demonstrate leadership on the issue.
"We're not an all-or-nothing organization," he said. "We're about building consensus on this issue."
"People do support this issue," Varble said.
Another alliance member, Kathryn Anthony of Urbana, said nine countries, eight states and hundreds of cities have banned or restricted smoking in most public places.
Council members in Urbana mostly seem interested in looking further at the issue.
"I want to talk with them about specific strategies for moving forward," said Danielle Chynoweth, D-Ward 2. "I think the council is open to discussing the issue and its potential impact."
Charlie Smyth, D-Ward 1, said "I don't know if we'll go it alone."
Dennis Roberts, D-Ward 5, said he was willing to examine the issue. He said one idea he likes is requiring bars that want to continue to allow smoking to buy a city license, with the fee high enough to constitute a "financial disincentive."
"That would allow free choice," Roberts said.