Stateline Businesses Still Violating Indoor Smoking Ban

By: Tina Stein
By: Tina Stein

WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) -- Bars and restaurants had the hardest time adjusting to Illinois' smoking ban when it first took effect. But now five years later, most complaints are being filed against businesses in an office setting.

Don Carter Lanes once feared the indoor smoking ban would strike bowlers from their games. But five years into the law, managers consider themselves spared.

"When it first started off, we saw a decline in bar revenue, but we recovered and rebounded like most area establishments because it's just the way it is and the way it's going to be," says manager Bobbie Jo Norris.

Bowlers are following the law and taking their cigarette breaks outside. And so are smokers at area bars and restaurants. The biggest concern now comes office workers.

"It's interesting were getting more complaints from employees that are being exposed to second hand smoke in their workplace and so they're calling and saying I don't like being exposed the smoke, some have complained to their employers and there isn't really any action taking place," says Larry Didier of the Winnebago County Health Department.

The Health Department has received nearly 800 complaints about businesses violating the ban since it took effect in 2008. More than half of those were in the law's first year. But some companies continue to get caught allowing smoking inside.

"If they believe they could get away with it, they're not trying to hide it a lot of times," says Didier.

Forty-two complaints have been filed this year, most about the same places. Two undercover inspections have been done at Alden Alma Nelson Manor, a nursing home in Rockford. Records show the cigarette smell had been seeping out of its smoking room. And due to various complaints, inspectors quietly stopped by Accu-Aire Comfort Systems of Roscoe twice. Neither business was cited.

The Health Department has been fairly flexible in working with area businesses. They issue letters letting them know about complaints. And they try to work on a solution together, before going ahead and fining the business. Those fines start at 250-bucks.

As for Don Carter Lanes, they've adapted to the ban by building a beer garden and outdoor smoking area.

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