Tazewell reviews smoking ban
State’s attorney says smoking is prohibited on all county property
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
BY KEVIN SAMPIER of the Journal Star
PEKIN – As Tazewell County struggles to segregate smokers in order to abide by state law, State’s Attorney Stewart Umholtz is saying it is not suitable to smoke anywhere on county property.
Umholtz says smoking anywhere on county-owned property is prohibited by the new Smoke-Free Illinois Act that went into effect Jan. 1.
The law bans smoking inside public places, including bars and restaurants, and smoking within 15 feet of entrances, windows or ventilation intakes across the state.
On Tuesday night, Umholtz told the Tazewell County Property Committee the law prohibits smoking anywhere on county property in the downtown Pekin area and in any county-owned vehicles because it bans smoking in a public place and in any place of employment.
“Because of the very confined nature of county operations downtown, it would appear to me all places would fall in the definition of place of employment,” Umholtz said. “It’s hard for me to imagine that any of our property on the downtown campus would not meet that definition.”
County Administrator David Jones asked Umholtz to review the law to ensure the county was in compliance.
“All I’ve done is interpret state law,” said Umholtz, adding that he’s talked with other state’s attorneys who think the act does ban smoking anywhere on county property, not just 15 feet away from the entrances.
Umholtz did not give an opinion about county-owned property in Tremont, which is in a large field and has no other buildings or businesses around it.
Jones said the county moved its ashtrays away from all entrances and put them on the sidewalks, which are owned by the city.
County employees who smoke on a city sidewalk would be subject to fines from the city because they are not on county property.
“The main question I get is, ‘Where can I smoke?'” Jones said. “I can’t answer that.”
Committee members asked Umholtz about county employees smoking in their personal cars, which are parked on county-owned lots.
“I don’t know what a court would say if they’re in their own vehicle and the windows are rolled up but on county property,” Umholtz said, adding there is no active patrol to catch smokers and one will not be put in place.
Legislators have said the act will be complaint-driven and law enforcement personnel are not going to dedicate resources to policing smokers unless they are called.
The Property Committee plans to create a policy during its February meeting that addresses the smoking issue at all county-owned locations.
“Other counties have considered banning smoking on their property,” Jones said. “Some have done it, some have not.”
Kevin Sampier can be reached at 346-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org .