DECATUR — Passions flared Tuesday over a proposed countywide smoking ban.
Health advocates want to protect the community from the hazards of secondhand smoke.
Bar owners say they would be hurt economically by a ban.
And smokers say a ban is an affront to their freedom.
About 50 community members attended a hearing at the Macon County Health Department, and several voiced their thoughts on a plan by the Macon County Board of Health to outlaw smoking in nearly 600 establishments across the county licensed to serve food.
The ban would affect restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, bingo halls, grocery stores and day-care centers.
The board of health recommended in recent weeks stiffening the county's food-sanitation regulations to prohibit smoking in all areas of food establishment premises "without exception."
McLean County government also is considering a proposed smoking ban in unincorporated areas of the county, following a recent law giving counties the right to enact a ban.
Home-rule municipalities received the right this year. Bloomington and Normal city councils approved smoking bans that go into effect Jan. 1.
The Macon County ban would cover all outdoor areas where food is served and a "presumptively reasonable minimum distance" of 15 feet from entrances, exits, opening windows and ventilation intakes.
Opponents of the ban say it smacks of intrusive nanny government.
"I personally feel like my rights are being stepped on," said Janet Bramer of Decatur. "I might have to stop and get a Big Mac in case they get outlawed, too."
Ban proponents disagree.
"This is not a rights issue or a choice to smoke issue," said lung cancer survivor Radine Cox. "There is nowhere in the Constitution that gives us the right to poison other people."
Tavern owners expressed concern about the effects of the ban on business.
The County Board will have the final say of the proposal.