Health groups won a major victory last week in the state Senate, ultimately allowing all Illinois towns, rather than a select few, to decide where to allow smoking, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Forest Park will be one of the towns that will benefit from this bill, allowing the town to designate non-smoking areas. As of now, village officials said there are no immediate plans to enact such a ban.
However, Galen Gockel, a trustee of the Village of Oak Park, said the passing of the statewide bill could possibly foster a joint discussion between neighboring towns such as Forest Park and Oak Park.
An attempt to ban smoking Oak Park was quickly put down last year due to a strong opposition from the local business owners, despite heightened focus on the town by the American Heart Association and American Lung Association, who hoped that the town would be sympathetic to the ban.
Gockel said the entrance of new Oak Park village board members on May 2, following a heated election cycle, will influence the agendas, thus it is hard to predict at the moment whether the statewide bill will foster any further discussion on a smoking ban in town or with other villages such as Forest Park.
“One of the concerns last time was that customers would just leave Oak Park and use the businesses in Forest Park … now [the] only way to address that concern is if three or four towns passed the ban simultaneously,” Gockel said.
Though the bill leaves a possibility of a joint discussion, Gockel said the idea is still theoretical at best and will require much time for the neighboring towns to engage in a joint discussion.
For Forest Park, the issue of smoking has not been brought up for the last 10 years.
Mayor Anthony Calderone of Forest Park said the village is willing to cooperate with Oak Park but a smoking ban is not a major concern in Forest Park.
Timothy E. Gillian, commissioner of Accounts and Finance in Forest Park, agreed.
“Oak Park has done surveys on businesses to see how the ban would influence the local businesses,” he said. “However, we didn’t do any of that yet … before we start any sort of joint discussion, I would”at the very least”seek professional opinion from the Chamber of Commerce.”
Lois Halstead, Board of Health chair, also said a joint discussion is possible in light of the statewide bill, but execution remains difficult.
“Whether the village will once again bring up discussion”that’s always possible since many people want to make Oak Park smoke-free”a community by community ban is a time-consuming and an expensive procedure,” she said.
Andrew Ariens, spokesman for Illinois Restaurant Association, said he believes a joint discussion between Oak Park and neighboring towns such as Forest Park will come up in the future but the decision should still be ultimately up to the individual local business owners.
“Even if a joint ban took place, I would think that smokers would just choose not to go out and eat in … that’s lost revenue and the next thing will be lost jobs; we don’t want that to happen,” he said.
Ariens added further that the market is driving the issue right now and further legislation is not necessary.