SPRINGFIELD - Anti-smoking groups saw a victory Tuesday when legislation giving counties the power to regulate smoking was approved by the Illinois Senate.
The proposal comes just six months after anti-smoking groups won a lengthy battle in the General Assembly to give cities the ability to ban smoking in bars, restaurants and other pubic places.
Business owners have argued that when cities approve a smoking ban, customers go to in unincorporated areas where smoking still is allowed.
"Now that we have all these municipalities, all we're doing is adding the ability of unincorporated areas (to regulate smoking)," said state Sen. John Cullerton, DChicago, sponsor of the legislation.
The measure, approved 45-10, also allows non-home-rule cities to impose smoking bans. Counties would only be allowed to enforce a ban in unicorporated areas.
Steve Riedl, Illinois Licensed Beverage Association spokesman, said the legislation could end up hurting business at restaurants and bars.
"If these people are so against tobacco then outlaw tobacco," Riedl said.
Legislation for a state-wide smoking ban is moving through both the Illinois House and Senate. However, neither chamber has voted on the issue yet this year.
State Sen. Dan Cronin, R-Elmhurst, said such a state-wide ban would be a bad idea.
"I embrace this approach because it allows the people at the local level, who are closest to the bars and restaurants and other establishments, to decide what's best for them," Cronin said.
Riedl said large-scale bans have hurt liquor establishments in places such as Ireland and Dallas, but he thinks Illinois is a long-way from passing a state-wide ban.
Chicago, Deefield, DeKalb, Highland Park, Springfield and Wilmette are the other cities that have approved a total ban since the statewide law affecting home-rule communities took effect.
Senate Bill 2400 now goes to the Illinois House.
Lawmakers voting "no" included state Sens. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington; Bradley Burzynski, R-Clare; Gary Forby, D-Benton; Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline; David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, Dale Righter R-Mattoon; Dan Rutherford, R-Chanoa; Frank Watson, R-Greenville and Gary Dahl, R-Granville.