Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Super-Duper Top Secret Air Cleaners

The smoking ban issue here in Springfield gets weirder by the day. The SJ-R today reports that there are now TWO compressive smoking ban plans being floated in the Springfield City Council when just last week it looked like the council had effectively killed the whole idea.

Actually, Mayor Tim Davlin’s plan and the plan being put forth by Alderman Frank Edwards look to be pretty similar: they both are fairly comprehensive, both have some delay in implementation for drinking establishments and they both want to provide exemptions for places that install some miraculous technology that can clean the smoke out of indoor air.

It’s this super-neato air filtration system that has me baffled. What are these guys talking about? A similar ordinance passed by the Chicago City Council last week had some silly exception for anyone able to figure out how to effectively scrub the air but Davlin says the technology already exists and is even in place a secret location right here in Springfield:
But Edwards said he's not sure equipment exists that would make the air as clean as it is outside. Anti-smoking groups who helped draft the Chicago ordinance and favor one in Springfield insist it does not.

Davlin said he believes that such systems exist and that one establishment in Springfield currently has one. He declined to name the establishment and could not estimate how much such equipment costs.

The Chicago City Council left technical standards for purification equipment up to the city's public health and environmental agencies.

Ward 10 Ald. Bruce Strom, who introduced a comprehensive smoking ban that the city council failed to vote on last week, said he is encouraged that Edwards and Davlin are talking about ordinances that would eventually make most of indoor Springfield smoke-free.

But Strom was concerned about the air purification exemption.

"This can be a major loophole," Strom said. "The technology does not exist that would remove the carcinogens and the toxins."

The Illinois Licensed Beverage Association, which opposes a comprehensive smoking ban, has said that there are air filtration systems that can make the air cleaner than it is outside.

But those in favor of a smoking ban point to a 2005 study by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers that concluded that "adverse health effects for the occupants of the smoking room cannot be controlled by ventilation."

Strom also noted that opponents of his ordinance complained that it would be tough to enforce. An ordinance that requires the city to measure regularly the level of smoke in establishments with the devices could be even more burdensome, he said.

Well, it seems to me that the cost of such an air purification system would be far greater than any temporary loss of smokers business. So go ahead, include the high-tech exemption. Either the super-duper filtration system will work (not likely) or the establishment will not have smoking at all. Either way, we get smoke free air.

I was also encouraged by this:
The mayor also called for state lawmakers to pass legislation allowing counties to ban smoking in unincorporated areas during the year before the city's ban would go completely into effect.
I think this is ultimately needs to be a statewide ban. Short of that, counties need the ability to pass smoking bans as well. Smoking bans work best when they apply evenly to all establishments regardless of governing district.

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