Illinois smoking ban now five years old - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Illinois smoking ban now five years old

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Five years ago, you could walk into any bar and the bartender would hand you a drink and an ashtray. Now, walk into virtually anywhere tobacco in hand, and they'll throw your butt outside.

It's been half a decade since the last cigarette was smoked inside Rockford bars. Some regulars still have mixed feelings about it.

Christine Mershon remembers a time when she could smoke inside her favorite bar. But even as a smoker, she doesn't miss the haze that could build up. "If they don't have the circulation it just gets real thick, even for a smoker and you can't breathe," says Mershon.

Not smoking inside comes second nature to her now. "I like it, I don't smoke in my house, it doesn't bother me to go outside and smoke," say Mershon.  

Bob Taylor, Another My Place patron, disagrees. He'd rather stay inside. "As far as out here, as cold as it is, this is crazy," says Taylor.

He believes the smoke-free act should not apply to bars. And says the state should not get to choose what people get to do inside them.

"Restaurants and everything, I agree with it, should not be smoking around food. It's not good. But if it's just a little bar, and they don't serve food well then you have your choice of going in there or nor going in there," says Taylor.

The rule has effects on people's health too. Officials say the number of people who smoke in Illinois dropped from 21 percent to 17 percent after just two years of the ban. Since the ban was created in 2008, Calls to the Tobacco Quit Line have also gone up by 45 percent.

My Place assistant manager Nathan Walters says while it may have helped solve some problems, the ban created others.

'Instead of people sitting inside, drinking a little bit more, smoking, putting their cigarettes out in the ashtray, they're going outside  and just flicking them wherever so now there's extra litter, garbage, whatnot. Doesn't look good. People standing outside smoking I don't think looks good either, even though we have a smoking deck, people don't utilize it," says Walters.

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