Press Release

November 16, 2006


State public health director stresses the importance of creating a Smoke Free Community

In Illinois, 17,000 die annually from cigarette smoking Smokers urged to quit in observance of Great American Smokeout

PEORIA, Ill. – Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), spoke today at an awards luncheon at University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria. The Dr. Joseph S. Solovy Award is given each year to recognize individuals and organizations that promote community health. Dr. Whitaker’s address was given in conjunction with the national Great American Smokeout observance which is held every year in November and encourages smokers to quit.

“Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and produces substantial health-related economic costs to society,” said Dr. Whitaker. “Part of the Illinois Department of Public Health's  mission is to protect the populations most at risk. IDPH supports a comprehensive statewide smoking ban with no exemptions and that does not preempt local municipalities and counties from enacting stronger provisions.”

On average, nearly 17,000 people in Illinois die each year as a result of cigarette smoking. Nationally, smoking is responsible for one of every five deaths. In fact, cigarette smoking kills more Americans than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, drugs and fires combined. Yet, smoking is the single most important preventable cause of illness and death in the United States.

On June 26, 2006, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich signed legislation that gives Illinois counties and municipalities the ability to ban smoking in public places. Senate Bill 2400, sponsored by Sen. John J. Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Rep. Karen A. Yarbrough (D-Broadview), amends the Illinois Clean Indoor Air Act to allow non-home rule municipalities and counties to prohibit smoking. This legislation allows communities to regulate smoking in all enclosed public places, such as restaurants, bars and bowling alleys. Smoking bans in counties would affect all municipalities within their limits, as well as unincorporated areas.

As of September 2006, 13 communities have adopted clean indoor air ordinances; including Bedford Park, Burr Ridge, Chicago, Deerfield, Evanston, Highland Park, Hinsdale, Lincolnshire, Oak Park, Park Ridge, Skokie, Urbana, and Wilmette. Several jurisdictions (12) have passed ordinances that are not yet in effect, including: Bloomington, Buffalo Grove, Champaign, Cook County, Elgin, Elk Grove Village, Lake Forest, Lindenhurst, Normal, Sangamon County, Springfield, and Vernon Hills.

Local health departments work with local restaurants to encourage their establishments to go smoke free. As of September 1, 2006, there were 8,196 smoke-free restaurants in Illinois.

Smokers who want to quit may receive assistance through free cessation classes and aids, such as patches, mints or gum. One-on-one counseling is also available through the Illinois Tobacco Quitline at 1-866-QUIT-YES. IDPH provides funding for 94 local health departments to conduct tobacco control and prevention programming through the Illinois Tobacco-Free Communities (ITFC).

1) A Quitline Cessation Network (QCN) was created as a result of supplemental funding from CDC to address Quitline utilization and to expand cessation activities statewide. The network includes 45 partners representing community based organizations, state agencies, local health departments, public relations experts, advocacy organizations, higher education, medical organizations, and oral health organizations. As a result of expanding the cessation activities, calls to the Quitline increased from 4,276 in FY05 to 18,213 in FY06, representing a 325.9% increase. (The original grant was awarded in October 2004).

2) In the fall of 2005, the ITFC program was further integrated into IDPH Chronic Disease Prevention and Control programs through linkages with asthma, stroke registry, cancer, and heart disease and stroke, and oral health programs.

3) Twenty -one local health departments have partnered with the Illinois Tobacco Quitline (ITQ) for the promotion of free or reduced cost Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) for callers in those counties who utilize Quitline cessation counseling. This collaborative, called "Break the Habit", has increased calls to the Quitline from those respective counties by 348%, as opposed to an increase of only 7% in counties not offering, as of summer 2006.

4) Currently, seven universities and community colleges are implementing components of SIU-C’s LiveFree—TobaccoFree comprehensive initiative on their respective campuses. Three of the institutions initiated their programs, in July 2006, by developing a campus/community tobacco coalition and conducting tobacco policy analyses.

5) Gov. Blagojevich's Human Services Cabinet elected to address pediatric asthma, during the fall of 2005, as one of the key health initiatives in Illinois. The ultimate goal of this initiative “Controlling Pediatric Asthma Through Collaboration and Education” is to decrease the number of emergency department asthma admissions and asthma-related hospitalizations and increase patient and provider education/awareness regarding asthma morbidity and mortality in Illinois. Six asthma coalitions including members from the Tobacco Partnership are responsible for implementing this pilot project in six target areas. The initiative is based on the community health educator model. The community health educators deliver case-specific asthma education in the home environment with the goal of improving asthma self-management and thereby reducing asthma symptoms, resource utilization and improving quality of life.

For more information about programs to stop smoking, contact the Illinois Tobacco Quitline at 1-866-QUIT-YES or your local health department.

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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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