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State smoking ban draws controversy

Publication Date: 2012-02-02
  • Publication:WTHI-TV

The Indiana House of Representatives approved a limited and controversial smoking ban in a 61-34 vote Wednesday.

The bill would outlaw smoking in most public places and businesses, though it would exempt casinos, private clubs, hookah bars and retail tobacco stores.

It would also require that bars go smoke-free in 18 months.

Governor Mitch Daniels had called for such a ban during his State of the State address earlier this year.

“We should at long last enact a law to protect the workers and patrons around Indiana from the hazards of second-hand smoke,” Daniels said at the time.

Supporters of the bill say it will protect businesses’ employees from second-hand smoke, smoke that healthcare workers say can cause serious lung conditions.

“Anytime you inhale that smoke, you’re stopping your body’s natural process of removing things from your lungs and from your airways,” said Jimmy McKanna, a respiratory therapist at Union Hospital in Terre Haute. “You’re actually kind of paralyzing all those hair-like projections in there that clean out your lungs.”

Critics of the bill argue that outlawing smoking in bars and restaurants while allowing it in other establishments will mean less business for bars and restaurants that are already struggling amid a tough economy.

“There are people out there who in the past few years have gone out and mortgaged their homes (to fund their businesses),” said Bruce Edelman, who owns Buchanan’s bar in Terre Haute. “They’ve gone into debt, they’ve borrowed money from the banks, they’ve borrowed money from their families. They’re not going to be able to pay this back. They’re going to lose their bars.”

Edelman said bars in other states have faced a similar dip in business in the months immediately after their smoking bans.

Opponents of the bill also say that banning smoking in private businesses limits personal liberty and the freedom to do business.

“I want the marketplace to dictate to me what I’m going to do,” Edelman said. “I don’t want the city council, I don’t want the State of Indiana, I don’t want the Federal Government to tell me I can or cannot do a legal act in my own business.”

The proposed smoking ban now heads to the Indiana Senate.

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