GIBSON CITY — The Ford County Public Health Department has issued no citations to businesses for violating the Smoke-Free Illinois Act, even though some remain noncompliant.
Christy Wallace, the Ford County Public Health Department’s tobacco program coordinator, said she has never issued a written citation under the law, which was established in 2008 and prohibits smoking in virtually all public places and workplaces.
The reason: Wallace first wants to give businesses or individuals who violate the law a chance to educate themselves about the rules and correct any problems.
Wallace spoke to members of the Gibson Area Chamber of Commerce during the organization’s monthly meeting Thursday. While Wallace said she has seen a reduction in the number of businesses allowing tobacco use within their establishments, she said many remain noncompliant with the law because they are not posting, as the law requires, “no smoking” signs at every entrance and exit.
Wallace reminded Gibson City business leaders that they are required to post either a “no smoking” sign or the international “no smoking” symbol on every exterior door, or instead in reasonably close proximity to those entries or exits. She said the signs need to be readable to someone with “uncorrected vision” at least 15 feet from an entry or exit — as 15 feet is the minimum distance a smoker must be from the door.
“Every door where you go in and out should have a sign on it,” Wallace said.
Wallace distributed “no smoking” window clings to business leaders at the conclusion of last week’s meeting. The window clings are downloadable free of charge on the Smoke-Free Illinois Act’s website, www.smoke-free.illinois.gov.
Wallace said she does random compliance checks at businesses in Ford County, in which she looks for evidence of smoking occurring inside a workplace or within the mandatory 15-foot minimum distance from an entry or exit.
If a violation is found, Wallace said, she first tries to educate the violator about the law’s requirements. If still not corrected by the time she returns for another random compliance check, the violator is given a verbal warning. Continued failure to correct the violations can lead to a written warning via certified mail and then a written citation, she said.
Wallace noted that any business that has a “no smoking” sign posted on its doors will not be found in violation of the law if a violation is due to someone who does not work at the facility — a customer, perhaps — smoking within 15 feet of an entrance or exit.
“One you’ve got these signs up and they’re visible to the public, I feel here in Ford County that it’s off the business’ shoulders if someone stands outside the door and smokes,” Wallace said. “It’d only be on the individual.”
Anyone who wishes to file a complaint about a business violating the Smoke-Free Illinois Act can do so anonymously at www.smoke-free.illinois.gov. After a complaint is filed, Wallace is sent to the location to check for compliance.
Wallace said the use of e-cigarettes in a workplace is currently not restricted under the Smoke-Free Illinois Act, although she said they are expected to be eventually.
As tobacco program coordinator, Wallace not only oversees compliance with the Smoke-Free Illinois Act, but she also provides resources to Ford County residents who wish to quit using tobacco products. Wallace refers people to the Illinois Tobacco Quitline (866-QUIT-YES).