With a new ban that prohibits smoking within 15 feet of playgrounds, smokers with cigarettes in hand will have to watch where they walk in the Lake County Forest Preserves.
"It's logical," said Mike Tully, director of operations and public safety for the forest preserve, said of the prohibition, recently enacted by the Lake County board.
Beyond the desire to keep children away from secondhand smoke, Tully said, the ban also is intended to prevent kids from seeing—and possibly picking up on—bad habits.
Buffalo Grove resident Ish Niazi said the preventive factor is the biggest reason he applauds the ban.
At a recent work function at the Half Day Forest Preserve near Lincolnshire and Vernon Hills, Niazi said it's not a matter of right or wrong. He said nothing good happens when kids and cigarettes come together.
"It's for their health," said Niazi, who lives in the Lake County area of Buffalo Grove. "It's not something that you want to see around your neighborhood."
While the ban might not be an earth-shattering change, Tully said the ban is the first he knows of for a county forest preserve district.
In McHenry and Cook counties, the two Illinois counties that border Lake, no such restrictions are in place in most outdoor areas, officials there said.
The Forest Preserve District of Cook County doesn't allow smoking at the Brookfield Zoo or the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, but otherwise, lighting up is allowed as long as the smoker stays outside and properly disposes of the butt, according to Karen Vaughan, director of communications.
She said in her two years with the department, she hasn't heard any discussion of further restrictions.
Lake County officials, however, say they might be getting out in front of a trend.
Tom Schafer, deputy director in the Illinois Department of Public Health Office of Health Promotion, said more local governments are taking advantage of state laws and are creating their own smoke-free areas.
The Smoke-Free Illinois Act, passed in 2008, bans smoking in public places but also allows governing bodies to enact stricter bans on a local level.
"We are actually seeing this more and more," Schafer said. "Most people think that in outdoor areas, smoke dissipates and goes away…but that's really not the case. Science shows more and more that it does stick around."
Lake County Board President Ann Maine said a group of Lake County high school students from the anti-tobacco group REALITY Illinois first brought to the board's attention the idea of doing away with smoking on forest preserve property entirely.
But she said smoking hasn't been a big issue on trails and in shelters, and so board members believed there was no reason to enact a wholesale ban.
"I've been in many of our preserves, and you don't see a lot of people smoking," she said. "There are not a lot of cigarette butts and trash related to that."
Maine also said a sweeping ban might keep some people from taking a walk through the woods.
"Smoking is not a healthy activity, but we also don't want to discourage somebody if this is going to be their healthy activity," she said.
Fire concerns haven't been manifested in actual blazes, according to Tully.