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Two judges rule differently on Illinois smoking ban

Publication Date: 10/29/2008
  • Publication:The Business Ledger

Two court rulings have created a cloud of questions about the enforcement of the Illinois act prohibiting smoking in most public places.

One judge said the act is constitutional and another judge said the legislation is not currently enforceable. Appeals could be made on one or both of the local court rulings.

Left in the middle of these two decisions are county health departments from DuPage, Will and Kane. Officials in these locations mentioned various levels of enforcement and citations for violations of the act.

Another opinion about the smoking situation came from the assistant city attorney for Elmhurst, one of the suburban cities which had passed its own smoking ordinance as well as adopting the state statue.

Harlan Spiroff, an Elmhurst attorney, said although the act does not directly address the issue raised in a recent court ruling, it does provide that both the Illinois Department of Public Health and local law enforcement agencies shall enforce the provision of the act and may assess fines.

"Therefore, we are of the opinion that while perhaps only the department has jurisdiction to deal with violations of the act, the courts have jurisdiction over violations of the city ordinance," he said. "Regardless of what the act might provide, the city may proceed in court on a violation of its own smoking ordinance in the same manner as any other ordinance violations."

Spiroff said the defendant in the Bureau County lawsuit asked the court to dismiss his case because, in his opinion, the act allows only the department to hear such matters, not the courts.

The department has yet to get approved administrative rules which are needed to establish enforcement rules for the act, which became effective on Jan. 1, 2008.