URBANA – Some Urbana City Council members are hesitant about enacting a ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places, after the Champaign City Council failed to take any action on the issue this week.
But Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing said she welcomes input on the issue and said the city council would likely hold a public hearing on the issue in coming weeks, similar to what occurred in Champaign on Tuesday night.
Anti-smoking advocates suffered a significant defeat Tuesday when the Champaign City Council voted 5-4 against a proposal to ban smoking in bars, restaurants and other indoor places. A less restrictive proposal to ban smoking in Champaign restaurants wasn't voted upon after it became apparent it didn't have majority support.
Scott Hays, president of the CU Smokefree Alliance, said he expects his organization to approach the Urbana council at some point in October and to ask them to consider a comprehensive smoking ban.
"I talked to Laurel Prussing," said Hays. "She said that regardless of what Champaign does, she said they would be interested in discussing it."
Prussing confirmed that the Urbana council is ready to consider the issue.
"We'll give them a hearing on it and see what people have to say," she said.
Prussing said she would like to see a survey of bar employees and whether they would prefer to work in a smoke-free environment.
"It's easy to say it's the consumer's choice, but maybe the employees don't have that choice," she said.
But two council members who said they are sympathetic to the smoke-free issue expressed doubts about enacting a smoking ban after Champaign's meeting.
"It's going to be very hard if Champaign's done nothing," said Charlie Smyth, D-Ward 1."The accusation is you'll drive business out of Urbana.
"I thought we made it clear to Champaign we were looking to them to provide leadership on this issue so we could have a level playing field," Smyth added.
Brandon Bowersox, D-Ward 4, said he would be reluctant to pass a smoking ban if Urbana was the only city in Champaign County to do so.
"Being a twin city, to have one city adopt a rule like this and not the other, it's a little unclear what the impact would be on local business," he said.
Danielle Chynoweth, D-Ward 2, said she personally signed a petition supporting a smoking ban circulated by the CU Smokefree Alliance.
"I think they have really compelling arguments as far as workplace safety and as far as comfort for the public," Chynoweth said. "The concern is what the consequences are for our local businesses."
Lynne Barnes, D-Ward 7, said she would like to see the cities of Champaign and Urbana work together to increase the number of smoke-free establishments "while allowing some places, like bars, to continue to offer smoking."
"I personally appreciate a smoke-free environment and choose to vote with my feet," she added. "I realize all people don't have that option."