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Understanding the Smoke-free Illinois Act

A Guide for Restaurants and Bars

As of January 1, 2008, indoor public places and places of employment in Illinois will be smoke-free. This includes, but is not limited to, restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, private clubs and gaming facilities.


The Smoke-free Illinois Act

The Smoke-free Illinois Act protects the public from the harmful effects of exposure to tobacco smoke by prohibiting smoking in public places and places of employment and within 15 feet of any entrance, exit, windows that open, or ventilation intake of a public place or place of employment. Public places and places of employment include, but are not limited to, restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, private clubs and gaming facilities. Smoking also is prohibited in public conveyances, such as taxis, buses, shuttles, and any vehicle owned, leased or operated by the state or a political subdivision of the state.

The act also includes requirements for signage and describes how to lodge a complaint, the enforcement process and how fines will be determined for violations. Local ordinances may have additional regulations on where smoking is prohibited. To learn more about whether additional regulations apply, contact your local health department.

Secondhand smoke

Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke exhaled by a smoker and the smoke from a burning cigarette. This combination is dangerous for both the smoker and the nonsmoker. Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including more than 50 known cancer-causing substances. When nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke, they inhale many of the same cancer-causing chemicals that smokers inhale. The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even small amounts of secondhand smoke exposure can be harmful to people’s health. For more information, go to the 2006 SurgeonGeneral's Report: The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke available on-line.

Servers have higher rates of lung and heart disease than any other traditionally female occupational group, according to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. According to the same report, one work shift in a smoky bar is equivalent to smoking 16 cigarettes a day. In addition, according to the University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health, two hours in a smoky bar is the same as smoking four cigarettes.

Responses to smoking surveys

The majority of Illinois citizens support the right to breathe clean indoor air. The 2005 Illinois Adult Tobacco Survey found that nearly three-fourths (72.4%) of adults believe that smoking should not be allowed in work areas while 72.8 percent supported a law for smoke-free restaurants. According to the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 79.5 percent of Illinoisans do not smoke. Based on the experiences of other states with smoke-free laws, the compliance rates are high.

Smoke-free Illinois Act’s affect on business and tourism

According to the 2005 Illinois Adult Tobacco Survey, eight in 10 adults (80.1%) believe a ban on smoking in restaurants would not make a difference in how often they dine out. More than one in 10 (12.6%) would dine out more often if there were a total ban on smoking in restaurants.

Studies of cities and states with smoke-free work place laws that include bars and restaurants provide strong evidence the law will have a neutral or even a positive impact on the business. The California Smoke-free Workplace Act has been in effect since 1998 and taxable annual sales for bars and restaurants show a steady increase. In 1998, sales were up more than 5 percent; in 1999, sales were up more than 8 percent; and in 2000, sales were up more than 9 percent. Additional studies of smoke-free workplaces, including restaurants and bars, show profits increase with the increased productivity of their employees and a decrease in maintenance costs.

To find out what restaurant and bar owners have to say about their experience after going smoke-free visit these Internet sites to view an informational video:

Smoke-free Restaurant Video

Smoke-free Bar Video

Proprietor requirements

Beginning January 1, 2008, business owners shall:

  • Not permit smoking at their business, or within 15 feet from entrances, exits, windows that open and ventilation intakes.
  • Post “No Smoking” signs at each entrance to the place of employment or public place where smoking is prohibited. “No Smoking” signs must comply with the specification in the Smoke-free Illinois Act.
  • Remove ashtrays from areas where smoking is prohibited.

There is no requirement for an employer to provide an outdoor shelter for smokers. As part of the workplace, private offices also must be smoke-free since smoking is prohibited throughout the workplace.  Additionally, employers may designate additional areas in the workplace as smoke-free.

Requirement to post signs

“No Smoking” signs or the international “No Smoking” symbol, consisting of a pictorial representation of a burning cigarette enclosed in a red circle with a red bar across it, must be clearly and conspicuously posted in each public place and place of employment where smoking is prohibited.

Signs are available to download at the Illinois Department of Public Health Web site here.

Proprietor responsibilities

The purpose of the Smoke-free Illinois Act is to protect others from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. An employee or a member of the public can file a complaint against an individual or business that violates the law.

Failure to comply with the Smoke-free Illinois Act

If a business owner fails to comply with the Smoke-free Illinois Act, an employee or patron may file a complaint. The Illinois Department of Public Health, state-certified local public health departments and local law enforcement agencies are designated enforcement agencies under the Smoke-free Illinois Act.

Businesses found in violation of the Smoke-free Illinois Act are subject to fines. Fines are assessed at $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second violation and a $2,500 minimum fine for all subsequent violations within one year of the first violation.

Fines for individuals who violate the Smoke-free Illinois Act are not less than $100 and not more than $250.

Employees and patrons who want to quit smoking

If you smoke and want to quit, or know someone who wants to quit, call the Illinois Tobacco Quit Line toll-free at 866-QUIT-YES (866-784-8937), which is operated by the American Lung Association in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Public Health. This free telephone service provides smokers and people who want to help them quit with information and advice about how to quit successfully.

535 West Jefferson Street | Springfield, Illinois 62761 | Phone 217-782-4977 | Fax 217-557-3497 | TTY 800-547-0466