SPRINGFIELD – Kathy Drea's list keeps on growing.
Drea, director of public policy for the American Lung Association of Illinois, keeps a list of Illinois communities that are considering restricting or banning smoking in public places – or have passed restrictions. The list includes 40 cities, up five in the past week.
"They're all over the state," said Drea, who works out of Springfield. "We're definitely surprised. We really thought after the bill passed (that let cities restrict smoking) that just a couple of communities might address the issue.
"Today we have 40 communities considering it. It's a major public policy issue in Illinois."
Among the cities mulling smoke-free ordinances are Bloomington, Normal, Joliet, Carbondale, Murphysboro, Edwardsville, Quincy and DeKalb, plus a number of Chicago-area communities, she said.
Springfield became the first downstate city to outlaw smoking, when on Jan. 17 the city council voted 6-4 to ban it in nearly all indoor workplaces, including bars, restaurants and private clubs. The ordinance takes effect Sept. 17, and illegal smoking can result in a fine of $50 to $300.
The Chicago City Council, after years of sidestepping the issue, passed a phased-in ban, with smoking in restaurants and workplaces banned last Monday and a bar ban set to go into effect in July 2008.
Add Urbana to the list of cities about to consider the issue.
At Monday's city council meeting, Alderman Dennis Roberts, D-Ward 5, said the city will hold a public forum on the issue in late February or early March at the Urbana Civic Center.
"Several people on the council and the mayor generally support this," Roberts said.
Last September, the Champaign City Council defeated, in a straw poll, a proposal to ban smoking in restaurants and bars. Efforts to revive the issue have stalled.
Urbana Alderman Charlie Smyth, D-Ward 1, said the biggest issue for Urbana is if "we should just do it, period, without Champaign.
"The ideal thing would be for Champaign to pass (a smoking ban), too," Smyth said. "But they're sort of deadlocked, and I don't feel like waiting for them. Maybe they'll act if we do something."
On a personal level, Smyth said he's tired of having to deal with cigarette smoke.
"If I want to go to a bar and listen to a band, I've got to subject myself to a couple of hours of smoking," he said. "It's no fun any more. I enjoy being able to go to dinner and not smell smoke anywhere in the room."
Unlike C-U, the Bloomington City Council and Normal Town Board are working together, with a joint meeting set for Monday night to discuss potential solutions.
Bloomington Mayor Steve Stockton said a Illinois Wesleyan University poll found 76 percent of Bloomington-Normal residents favor a restaurant smoking ban and 66 percent favor banning smoking in bars.
"We're assuming, by about 3 to 1, a majority wants to stop smoking where food is served," Stockton said.
Stockton said he is leaning toward banning smoking where food is served, including bars that serve food, and he's received hundreds of e-mails on the issue.
"Some days I'll get 30 or 40," he said.
Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said no formal discussion about a public smoking ban is occurring at the city council level, but city officials are following the issue as other cities begin to regulate smoking.
A nonsmoker, Eisenhauer said he has been contacted by Danville residents who want a ban. He admits he's a bit wary.
"Any time you start dealing with peoples' rights, the rights of a smoker versus the rights of a nonsmoker, it's an extremely difficult task to craft an ordinance that will please both sides," he said. "It's almost impossible to do.
"Our perspective is let's identify the pitfalls and try and avoid some of them when it comes time for our discussion."
Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said his city council isn't considering a smoking ban. Council members are content to let private business owners decide if and when to go smoke free.
Peoria has a large number of independent, family-owned restaurants, and Ardis said council members are concerned that a restaurant smoking ban could harm those businesses. Drea said an anti-tobacco coalition has formed in Peoria and will begin pressuring the council.
Decatur also hasn't taken up the smoke-free issue, but "There's no doubt the council will be addressing this some time in the future," Mayor Paul Osborne said.
Drea said the medical community in Decatur, which helped pass a leaf burning ban a few years ago, is organizing in support of a smoking ban.