BLOOMINGTON — There is no risk-free exposure to second-hand smoke, according to a recently released U.S. surgeon general's report.
"No heating/ventilation system can effectively remove toxins," McLean County Health Department Director Bob Keller told members of the County Board's Finance Committee on Tuesday in his review of the report. "The only way to prevent (the effects) is non-exposure."
Keller said the surgeon general's report showed an "overwhelming preponderance of evidence" that second-hand smoke increases a nonsmoker's risks of getting lung cancer or heart disease by about 30 percent.
The committee asked Keller to summarize Surgeon General Richard Carmona's report so it could consider the information when deciding the fate of a proposed smoking ban in unincorporated areas of the county. Gov. Rod Blagojevich recently signed a law giving counties the right to enact a ban.
Home-rule municipalities received the right at the first of the year. Bloomington and Normal city councils approved a smoking ban in indoor public places in May. It will go into effect Jan. 1.
Normal also banned smoking in outdoor places of assembly, such as bleachers at sporting events.
McLean County Civil Assistant State's Attorney Eric Ruud drafted an ordinance that mirrors those of the Twin Cities for the County Board to consider. The issue is at the Finance Committee because it is a health issue and the committee oversees the county health department.
Keller said the report also showed nonsmoking children who were around secondhand smoke had the harmful effects of the smoke in their bloodstreams. The same was true for the nonsmoking spouse of a smoker.
Committee member P.A. "Sue" Berglund asked if those same effects can come from the clothes or hair of a smoker who returned inside after having a cigarette outside - much like what could happen with an outside beer garden where smoking would be allowed. Keller said there was no study on that scenario.
Chairman Matt Sorensen said he hoped for more definitive results from the surgeon general's report. "If we fail to adopt this ordinance, are we condemning one more person to cancer next year?" he asked.
Sorensen admitted he has some difficulty with the proposed ordinance because it affects the "one guy with a shop without customers coming to him.
"I struggle with the idea he can legally smoke in his home and outside but not in his own shop behind his house," he said.
The committee agreed to have Sheriff Dave Owens address enforcement issues of a smoking ban at its September meeting. Members also asked County Administrator John Zeunik to determine some dates for public hearings on the issue.