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Secondhand smoke is a health problem without borders. So there is no reason to confine the issue to cities such as Bloomington-Normal. A responsible Legislature could provide protection for the entire state with an amendment to the state's Clean Indoor Air Act.

The amendment that passed out of committee last week would add restaurants, bars and bowling alleys to the definition of public places where smoking would be prohibited in two years unless the proprietors have a smoking area equipped with a filtration system that would provide air equivalent to outdoor air.

The amendment should be approved. It would put restaurants and bars on notice that a smoking ban is coming and maybe encourage them to act on their own much sooner.

A voluntary venture is better than having a government edict. Unfortunately, the "voluntary" route hasn't been that successful, at least in Bloomington-Normal.

However, State Rep. Dan Brady thinks chances of the state amendment's approval are slim.

If the amendment is killed, it can be blamed on lobbyists and skittish legislators who fear loss of campaign contributions or the wrath of a minority - smokers - or both.

It could end some squabbling that officials in Normal and Bloomington are experiencing.

Based on comments at a recent joint meeting of the Bloomington and Normal City Councils, Normal appears ready to adopt a smoking ban at public places, including restaurants and bars. Bloomington council members, however, sounded reluctant to go that far.

It would not be in this community's best interest to have different laws on smoking. The city boundaries aren't well defined, but more importantly, these two cities should be working together more as a single community with similar regulations.

The same concern for residents and visitors should apply statewide.

Why should Illinois have a hodge-podge of ordinances pertaining to secondhand smoke when lawmakers, with the push of their little buttons in the House and Senate, can establish a uniform law.

Legislators are more removed from constituents than township trustees or city council members. So, it should be easier for them to pass an amendment to ban smoking in restaurants and bars statewide.

The question is whether they can distance themselves from lobbyists who don't want such bans.

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