Effective January 1, 2008, Illinois will ban smoking in all enclosed public places and places of employment. Finding that secondhand smoke (1) is a harmful and dangerous carcinogen to human beings and a hazard to public health, (2) is the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, (3) is the cause of death for an estimated 2,900 Illinois citizens each year, and (4) toxins cannot be eliminated by building ventilation systems, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Smoke Free Illinois Act, Public Act 095-0017.

With limited exceptions, the Act prohibits smoking in places of employment and provides that no person is permitted to smoke within 15 feet of any entrance to a place of employment. Further, the Act requires employers to post “No Smoking” signs or the international “No Smoking” symbol, consisting of a pictorial representation of a burning cigarette enclosed in a red circle with a red bar across it in clearly conspicuous places. Each place of employment must post at every entrance a conspicuous sign clearly stating that smoking is prohibited.

The Illinois Department of Public Health, state certified local public health departments, and local law enforcement are charged with enforcing the Act. Any person may file a complaint on a telephone number to be established. A person who smokes in an area where smoking is prohibited is subject to fine in an amount not less than $100 and not more than $250. Employers shall be fined (1) not less than $250 for the first violation, (2) not less than $500 for the second violation within one year after the first violation, and (3) not less than $2,500 for each additional violation within one year after the first violation. Interestingly, the fines will be distributed one-half to The Illinois Department of Public Health and one-half to the enforcing agency.

According to Frank Del Barto, a member of the Firm’s Employment and Labor Group, employers should review their employee handbooks and personnel policies to ensure that a smoking prohibition is included. Additionally, “No Smoking” signs should be posted at the entrances to facilities and other conspicuous places.