While you were gone: Smoking ban changes hit Evanston residents

Breanne Gilpatrick

The Evanston City Council this summer passed an ordinance banning smoking in workplaces and apartment buildings, but some students and landlords remain unaware of the change.

The ordinance, passed by the City Council in June, bans smoking in workplaces and the common areas of apartment buildings, such as stairwells, hallways and laundry rooms. The ordinance also requires that smokers be at least 25 feet away from building entrances.

The ban excludes bars, restaurants and long-term care facilities.

The ban is enforced on a complaint basis, and the city so far has received five complaints, with no formal citations issued, said Carla Bush, Evanston’s chief of community health services.

None of those complaints have been for apartment buildings, and Bush said she does not know if this will change as more people move back into Evanston apartment buildings for the fall.

Sheldon Kantoff, property manager for Parliament Enterprises Ltd., which owns more than 10 Evanston apartment buildings, said he was not aware an ordinance even had been passed. He said he would need to contact the city to see if he would need to make any changes in his building because of the ban, but said he would be happy to comply.

“I’m very much in favor of such a law on a personal level,” Kantoff said. “As a reformed smoker, smoking is an abomination to me.”

The city is still in the process of notifying businesses and landlords, said Jay Terry, director of health and human services. He said the city has sent e-mail alerts, posted notices on the city Web site and published information on the ordinance in the city newsletter.

People have been good about learning about the ordinance and finding out what they need to do to enforce it, Terry said. One of the main steps the city recommends is moving ashtrays to keep smokers away from building entrances, he said.

“Many businesses have gotten so used to the idea of having people clumped right around the doorway that they’ve put ashtrays and waste receptacles there as kind of an enabling device,” Terry said. “The first thing we’ve said is if they’re going to have those ashtrays, they need to be 25 feet away from the building.”

The Evanston Health Department has also been sponsoring stop smoking seminars for those interested in quitting. It sponsored a one-night nicotine addition seminar in July to coincide with the passage of the ordinance and will be co-sponsoring a six-session stop smoking clinic with the Skokie Health Department on Sept. 28, 29 and 30 and Oct. 1, 4 and 11. The clinic will be held at the Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Avenue, and is free for anyone who lives or works in Evanston or Skokie.

Joel Spitzer, who conducts the clinics and has been doing stop smoking seminars in the Chicago area for more than 30 years, said he doesn’t know if the ordinance will have an impact on the number of people who attend this fall’s clinic. Spitzer said he saw more of an impact with the cigarette tax increase in the spring. The increase went into effect in April and raised the price of cigarettes in Cook County to as much as $6 per pack.

Most people who attend are those who already want to quit, Spitzer said. He said the Evanston ordinance just put a little bit more pressure on them.

“(The ordinance) was just kind of one more straw that made it a little more difficult to smoke,” he said.

Reach Breanne Gilpatrick at [email protected]