Council Will Allow Smoking in Illinois Airport, But Not Its Restaurant

Dec. 12 -- BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- Nervous fliers will get a chance to take a last relaxing puff of their cigarette before boarding a flight at the Central Illinois Regional Airport.

However, they won't be enjoying a beer or a meal with it.

The Bloomington City Council on Monday approved an indoor smoking room at the airport for passengers who clear the security checkpoints and are waiting for flights. The council also approved tightening rules regulating smoking in private clubs.

The council voted 5-3 on the two changes to the city's indoor smoking ban, which starts Jan. 1.

Previously, the airport authority board voted to allow smoking at the airport restaurant, The Hangar. But the city's smoking ban overrides the board's action because generally the stricter rule is followed in overlapping jurisdictions.

Tom Hubbard, owner of the restaurant, told the council he signed a lease with the airport authority with the belief he would be able to allow smoking. He told the council to vote against the smoking room.

"If it was a health issue six months ago when you voted for it (the ban), then it is a health issue now," Hubbard said. "Let's get back to a total ban. If I have to go down under the bus then this should be turned down, too."

Airport Executive Director Carl Olson said passengers who cleared the security checkpoint cannot leave the area without having to be rechecked by security, which can be time consuming for security officers and delay passengers. He said the already existing area is equipped with a closed ventilation system.

Aldermen Jim Finnegan, J. "Skip" Crawford and Karen Schmidt voted against the changes. Finnegan and Crawford argued in favor of sticking with the initial ban without loopholes.

"If we are concerned about a level playing field and people's health then let's leave it," Finnegan said. "We have a ban so let's stick to it."

Alderman Mike Matejka said he viewed the change as helping airport security.

"If we allow it at The Hangar then we are doing a disservice to the bars and restaurants in town," Matejka said. "But the smoking room is different because this is a function of airport security."

In the other ordinance change, the city's private or fraternal clubs will have to be smoke-free when hosting events that are open to the public.

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At a glance

What does this mean to you?

Passengers at CIRA will be able to smoke inside the terminal at a designated smoking room.

Background:

Bloomington and Normal approved indoor smoking bans to start Jan. 1. That ban applies to the airport even though the Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority and Bloomington have dual jurisdiction.

How they voted:

5-3; Yes: Allen Gibson, Kevin Huette, Steven Purcell, Mike Matejka and John Hanson; No: J. "Skip" Crawford, Karen Schmidt and Jim Finnegan.

Copyright (c) 2006, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.



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