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Editorial: Doubts over limits on cigarettes go up in smoke

 Illinois’ public colleges universities could be forced stamp out smoking their campuses by next summer if bill facing members

Illinois’ public colleges and universities could be forced to stamp out smoking on their campuses by next summer if a bill facing members of the House becomes law. | File photo

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Updated: February 4, 2013 2:43PM

When the new Legislature is sworn in a week from now, it won’t be surprising if someone introduces a bill to chip away at Illinois’ ban on smoking in nearly all public places.

A bumper crop of first-time legislators is due to show up, and the rookie lawmakers will bring with them ideas that might not mesh with previous General Assemblies.

But legislators should resist tinkering with this law. The Smoke Free Illinois Act, which turns five years old this month, has been a big success.

That doesn’t mean the law has gone unchallenged. Last year, for example, a bill was introduced that would have allowed local liquor commissions to sell licenses to permit smoking as well. Fortunately, it was voted down.

After five years of living with the law, most Illinoisans have found they like it. A poll last month by the American Lung Association in Illinois found 77 percent of state residents favor the law. Even smokers — more than half of them — think it’s a good idea.

Many trends on smoking are going in the right direction. The percentage of adult Illinois smokers has dropped from 23.6 percent in 2003 to 16.9 percent in 2010. Heart disease and lung cancer mortality — both tied to smoking — have declined as well. Illinois was the 13th state to pass a comprehensive ban on public smoking. Now there are 25 states with such laws.

At the time the legislation was debated, opponents feared bars and restaurants might lose so much business they would close. But at a press conference Wednesday, state Sen. Terry Link, a sponsor of the law, said the Illinois Liquor Control Commission issued 500 more liquor licenses last year than in the year before the ban took effect.

Any new opposition to this law should be quickly stubbed out.

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