Smoke-Free Act too hazy to work

What appears to be a poorly drafted piece of legislation has the states restaurant and bar owners enveloped in a cloud of smoke, with no easy way to clear the air.

The new Smoke-Free Illinois Act, which went into effect the first of the year, attempts to ban smoking in virtually all public areas. Thats good news for those who are bothered by second-hand cigarette smoke. But its extremely confusing for business owners, government officials and law enforcement personnel who are expected to enforce the vague measure.

Fayette County States Attorney Stephen Friedel said last week that he is telling county law enforcement officers not to issue citations until the flawed law is fixed.

He termed the smoking ban as a horrendous piece of legislation that is overbroad, poorly drafted, and is difficult at best and impossible at worst to enforce.

In its current form, the law puts the enforcement responsibility on county public health departments, which have no law-enforcement authority to do anything about it.

So where does that leave owners of restaurants, bars and other public places? If they attempt to enforce the measure, they almost certainly will be challenged by angry patrons. If they fail to enforce it, they run the risk of prosecution and fines

Essentially, they’re in a no-mans-land in the middle.

New laws always will have test cases, and precedents must be set in the early going. But this law seems to lack a reasonable enforcement plan to make convictions stick.

Meanwhile, compliance with the law is all over the map. And that only clouds the issue further.

The law needs to go back to the drawing board.

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