Press Release

January 1, 2009


Blagojevich Administration Joins Respiratory Health Association to Mark First Anniversary of Smoke-Free Illinois Act

Sculpture made by Columbia College Student unveiled

CHICAGO – Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold today joined the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, legislators and advocates to celebrate the first year anniversary of the Smoke-free Illinois Act by unveiling a sculpture created from ashtrays that were donated in support of the new law. In commemoration of Illinois’ first year of being smoke-free, the sculpture will be on display at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago for one week before moving to a local hospital where it will remain for the rest of the year.

“The Smoke-free Illinois Act has been a great success. It is one of the most significant achievements in Illinois public health history and we are seeing widespread compliance throughout the state,” said Governor Blagojevich. “The people of Illinois are now free from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke while at work or when they go out to restaurants or other public places.”

“Secondhand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Inhaling secondhand smoke can cause premature death and diseases in children and adults who do not smoke. It causes lung cancer and coronary heart disease in healthy non-smoking adults and increases the risk of serious respiratory problems in children, such as a greater number and severity of asthma attacks and lower respiratory tract infections,” said Dr. Arnold. “As the director of the state’s health promotion and disease prevention agency, I am proud of the efforts of local health departments, police, state’s attorneys, the public, and my agency in supporting this effort to make Illinois smoke-free.”

In light of the first year of the Smoke-free Illinois Act, students of Columbia College created a sculpture made from ashtrays donated to the Respiratory Health Association in a show of support for the new law.

“We find ‘Phoenix’ an appropriate title for this work in the purpose of giving a new life, a more beautiful existence, to the ugly past of the ashtrays. No longer serving the smoker but instead enriching the viewer,” said Emanuel Aguilar, one of three student sculptors.

The Smoke-free Illinois Act went into effect January 1, 2008 and prohibits smoking in enclosed public places, workplaces and government vehicles. In addition, smoking is not permitted within 15-feet of any entrance to an enclosed public place or place of employment.

“As result of this law we will see fewer Illinoisans suffer from lung cancer, fewer heart attack hospitalizations and fewer asthma attacks. Simply stated the Smoke-Free Illinois law will save lives,” said Joel Africk, president and CEO of Respiratory Health Association.

Although the state has gone Smoke-free there are still thousands of Illinoisans struggling with tobacco addiction.

“Cook County recognized the huge need for tobacco cessation services and has created the Healthy Lungs Initiative in response. We estimate that we will work with over 40,000 smokers over the five year life of the program,” said Dr. David Goldberg, Director of the Section of Preventative Medicine at Stroger Hospital.

To highlight the success of the Smoke-free Illinois Act one year after becoming law, Governor Blagojevich last week announced a new media campaign. Illinoisans are now seeing and hearing television and radio ads, featuring a pulmonary critical care physician and a bar and restaurant owner explaining how the Smoke-free Illinois Act has improved the lives of their patients, patrons and employees.

Every year in Illinois, exposure to secondhand smoke kills 2,900 non-smoking adults and children. The U.S. Surgeon General’s June 2006 report concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, a mixture of smoke given off by the burning end of tobacco products and the smoke exhaled by smokers.

Levels of secondhand smoke in restaurants and bars were found to be two to five times higher than in residences with smokers and two to six times higher than in office workplaces, according to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.

The World Health Organization issued a report stating that no-smoking laws are an effective way of preventing heart disease, getting cigarette users to quit and protecting children from smoke. The report also stated there is enough evidence to prove that smoke-free policies work without hurting businesses such as restaurants and bars.

For more information on the Smoke-free Illinois Act, visit You are also able to use the Web site to log a complaint about a business or individual violating the law. For smokers looking for help in their efforts to quit, the Department funds a toll-free help line at 866-QUIT-YES.

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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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