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Smoking ban close

Publication Date: 2012-01-30
  • Publication:Seymour (IN) Daily Tribune

House vote is due this week

Hoosier lawmakers will likely vote early this week on whether to send a statewide smoking ban from the Indiana House to the state Senate.

State representatives approved on voice vote Friday an amendment that would give bars an 18-month exemption from a bill calling for a broad statewide smoking ban in a move that sponsors hope will help it win passage in the Legislature.

Bars are exempt under the smoking ordinance Seymour Common Council passed in 2006, as long as children are not allowed in any part of businesses selling alcoholic beverages.
Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman said Sunday night he was unsure how a statewide ban on smoking would affect the local ordinance.

The Seymour ordinance bans smoking in public places, including restaurants, retail stores, public transportation, public restrooms and lobbies, theaters, bowling alleys, schools, hospitals, nursing homes and polling places. Smoking is not regulated in private residences, hotel and motel rooms, private clubs, bars and outdoor areas under the Seymour ordinance.

The amendment approved Friday to the statewide proposal would permit bars that currently allow smoking to keep doing so until September 2013. House members also added a broader exemption for casinos by allowing smoking anywhere on their property rather than just on gambling floors as originally proposed.

A House vote on the overall bill is due early this week that could advance it to the Indiana Senate, where similar proposals in recent years have gone to die.

State Rep. Dave Cheatham, D-North Vernon, said Sunday he will vote for the bill and is encouraged the proposal will become law this year.

“I think the evidence is overwhelming that second-hand smoke is very harmful to your health,” Cheatham said of the reasoning behind his vote.

“The bill has been around for a long time, and this is probably the cleanest version as far as the number of exemptions,” he added. “Putting the sunset on smoking in bars will give them time to make the transition. I think it’s a very well-thought-out plan.”

Cheatham’s confidence in the bill becoming law stems from it not being loaded with exemptions and Gov. Mitch Daniels’ support.

“The governor has said it is one of his top perrioties, and the governor's been successful so far this session and I see no reason to think he won’t be successful on this,” Cheatham added.

The House last year approved a smoking ban bill that included a bar exemption without an end date. Health advocates argued it would have given Indiana one of the weakest bans in the nation.

The bill was defeated in a Senate committee after its chairman argued the bar exemption was needed to win Senate passage. 

Anti-smoking advocates were expected to meet to decide whether to support the bill with the temporary bar exemption, said Danielle Patterson, co-chairwoman of the Indiana Campaign for Smokefree Air. 

She said giving extra time to bar owners was probably necessary to gain sufficient support to clear the House. Patterson said she was disappointed at the exemption for all buildings on casino property, however. Some legislators argue that is needed to protect the state’s 13 casinos from competition in neighboring states — and the some $650 million a year in tax revenue the state receives from them.

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