By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
Residents are enjoying fresh air thanks to the ongoing efforts of the Smoke-Free Illinois Act.
The Illinois Department of Public Health announced its new campaign,“Thanks from the bottom of our lungs” last week as the state observes the fifth anniversary of the act protecting patrons from secondhand smoke.
“For the most part, everyone is happy about the act,” Whiteside County Public Health Administrator Beth Fiorini said. “A lot of people said they didn’t realize how bad it was before, but now they know how nice it is to go out to eat and enjoy a smoke-free environment.”
Illinois enacted the SFIA on Jan. 1, 2008 and was the 13th state to have a comprehensive smoke-free law prohibiting smoking in workplaces, restaurants, bars, theaters, museums, schools, casinos and other enclosed public places. On Tuesday, the department launched the new campaign to encourage Illinoisans to continue to support smoke-free environments and the health benefits they bring.
A 2006 U.S. Surgeon General report estimated that exposure to secondhand smoke kills around 50,000 people a year in the United States, including about 2,000 people in Illinois. After the SFIA was enacted in 2008, the number of people who reported smoking in Illinois declined from 21.3 percent in 2008 to 16.9 percent in 2010. The number of people who called the Illinois Tobacco Quitline increased dramatically after the SFIA became law, rising from 7,629 calls in 2008 to 24,575 calls in 2012; — a 45 in 2008 to 24,575 calls in 2012; — a 45 percent increase, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Whiteside County has also seen positive results and a decline in smoking throughout the county. Law enforcement officers have been keeping the conditions smoke-free and have given out several tickets to those disobeying the act. The percentage of adults smoking in the county has decreased from 2011 to 2012 in the County Health Rankings, going from 33 percent to 31 percent. These numbers are still far above the national benchmark for the two years at 15 percent and 14 percent, respectively, and also above the state averages of 21 percent and 20 percent
“Things have been going fairly well, we are about 98 percent compliant and the restaurants are at 100 percent,” Fiorini said. “There will always be patrons who fold to peer pressure, but overall it has gone very well.”
Most adults, 91 percent, report no exposure to secondhand smoke in indoor public places in Illinois, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Continued efforts to support the SFIA include eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke in outdoor areas such as hospital or college campuses, as well as in multi-unit housing.
Residents are encouraged to contact their local law enforcement to report disobedience to the act.
For help quitting smoking, call the Illinois Tobacco Quitline at 1-866-QUIT-YES. Whiteside County Public Health also offers additional resources for those hoping to quit smoking, including individual classes, support groups, chronic disease health management and programs at the schools.
The Iowa Smokefree Air Act is also on the verge of a fifth-year anniversary, as the measure was passed in the spring of 2008. The Smokefree Air Act prohibits smoking in almost all public places and enclosed areas within places of employment, as well as some outdoor areas. For more information on the Iowa movement visit www.iowasmokefreeair.gov.