Illinois’ smoke-free law celebrates five years

Staff Report

Jan. 1, 2013, marked the fifth anniversary of the Smoke Free Illinois Act, which protects everyone, regardless of where they work or live, from the health risks associated with secondhand smoke exposure.

Five years ago, Illinois enacted the strongest clean indoor air law in the country, prohibiting smoking in nearly all “public places” where people gather.

There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Sixty-nine of the chemicals in secondhand smoke can cause cancer. Children and adults with allergies or breathing problems often feel worse when exposed to secondhand smoke.

The landmark Smokefree Illinois legislation prohibits smoking in most indoor public places and workplaces including bars and restaurants. Today, more than half of the country’s population, and 30 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, all have strong smoke-free laws. Additionally, many cities and counties throughout the country have passed their own smoke-free laws.

Smoke-free laws are popular because they improve public health and reduce the health care costs to treat people with smoking-related diseases.

Following are some of the benefits of Smokefree Illinois:

• According to data collected by the Illinois Department of Public Health, since Smoke Free Illinois went into effect, tobacco-related hospitalizations and health care costs have decreased substantially. In fact, hospitalizations for tobacco-related diseases are well below those in the two years prior to the Smoke Free Illinois Act.

• Hospitalizations for heart disease have shown the greatest decline. It is estimated that more than 30,200 heart disease hospitalizations in Illinois have been prevented since passage of the Smoke Free Illinois Act. Based on an average cost for a heart disease admission of nearly $39,000, there has been an estimated savings of $1.18 billion in hospital costs alone.

• In 2008, 21.2 percent of Illinois adults smoked; in 2012, that number dropped to 16.9 percent.

For information about quitting smoking, can call the Illinois Tobacco Quitline at 1-866-QUIT YES (1-866-784-8937.) The Quitline has trained counselors who provide professional advice about how to quit, and can provide free nicotine replacement products (patches, gum and lozenges).

Locally, the Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) provides classes or individual counseling to clients trying to quit. Those services also can assist with access to patches, gums and lozenges through the Illinois Quitline. WCHD has a class that will meet for the second time at 4 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 10, at Crusader Community Health’s West State Street site. New participants can begin attending that class and participate in six of the seven total sessions, each about 80 to 90 minutes in length.

Two other classes to be offered by WCHD are as follow:

• Thursdays, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., beginning Jan. 10; and,

• Wednesday evenings, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., beginning Feb. 3, at Crusader Community Health’s Seventh Street and Broadway location.

For additional information about quitting smoking, including having other classes or counseling provided, or to get questions answered about smoking, tobacco and secondhand smoke, contact the WCHD’s Tobacco Programs Office at (815) 720-4269, or Larry Didier at, or visit the WCHD website at

From the Jan. 9-15, 2013, issue

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