State smoking ban exempts bars
By Rick Yencer
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - A statewide smoking ban that exempts bars and other institutions narrowly passed out of the Republican-controlled Indiana Senate on Wednesday.
It took five years for Republican senators even to pass a smoking ban that already has been imposed in several Hoosier communities, including Delaware County. The vote was 29-21.
"It's not the bill, obviously, that some of us would like," said Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, one of the bill's supporters.
Gard and Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, were the only eastern Indiana senators to support the ban that helps protect public health. Republican Sens. Doug Eckerty of Yorktown; Allen Paul of Richmond and Travis Holdman of Markle, all voted no. During a recent forum, Eckerty was unsure how he would vote, but he and other Republican sided on the right of business owners to regulate their own premises without government interference.
And those Republican lawmakers chose to ignore the documented risks of smoking. About 1,000 Hoosiers die from secondhand smoke every year, And secondhand smoke costs about $62 a person or $390 million yearly in medical expenses, according to the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long of Fort Wayne also supported the ban despite resisting the issue in recent years.
The exemptions were extensive and included taverns, health care facilities and bingo halls. Supporters in the Indiana House objected to more exemptions after the House exempted gaming facilities and private clubs. A conference committee will have a tough job coming up with a compromise.
The statewide ban does not impact local communities that already imposed the ban. Delaware County's smoking ban that includes bars withstood a legal challenge. Nearby Madison County has not ban but many restaurants impose a voluntary ban.
About 29 states have smoking bans and most include bars. Gov. Mitch Daniels also supports a comprehensive smoking ban, but declined further comment after the Senate added exemptions that included bars.