Appeals court upholds Indianapolis smoking ban

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A federal appeals court on Monday upheld the citywide smoking ban in most Indianapolis bars, denying the injunction request brought by several bar owners who claimed the 2012 law would have a negative impact on their businesses.

The appellate judges noted the bar owners clearly established a negative economic impact as a result of the smoking ban, but a mere loss of future profits was not enough to base a claim.

Smoking is not a fundamental right, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals pointed out, so the ordinance will stand if it passes rational basis scrutiny.

“There are numerous reasons the city may have chosen to limit smoking in enclosed public spaces, and the bar owners have failed to disprove all of them," Judge Michael Kanne wrote.

"[T]he city could have determined that they wanted to limit smoking in public places because it is annoying to nonsmokers, who are not used to inhaling smoke. It could also have reasoned that by banning smoking in public places, it would encourage more smokers to quit, improving health outcomes for more than just those exposed to secondhand smoke," Kanne wrote. "Whatever the city’s reasoning, the bar owners have failed to demonstrate that there is no rational basis on which a law restricting smoking in public places could be based."

Mayor Greg Ballard signed the ordinance in April 2012 expanding citywide restrictions against indoor public smoking to include most bars. The ordinance exempts tobacco specialty bars like cigar and hookah bars, retail tobacco stores, and private clubs that voted to permit smoking.

The bar owners sought declaratory and injunctive relief from the ordinance, asserting due process, equal protection, takings and freedom of association claims under the federal and Indiana constitutions.

Chief Judge Richard Young in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana denied the owners’ request for relief.

The appeals court also rejected the bar owners’ claim that the ordinance denies them equal protection of laws because smoking remains legal in tobacco specialty bars.

“The city thus drew a line between traditional bars, for whom tobacco sales and usage are incidental to their primary business of alcohol and food sales, and tobacco specialty bars, whose business models depend on tobacco sales," Kanne wrote. "The bar owners essentially argue that this line was drawn incorrectly because it does not include their businesses, which also depend significantly upon on-site tobacco usage. But legislation ‘does not violate the Equal Protection Clause merely because the classifications [it makes] are imperfect.'"

The bar owners’ claims under the Indiana Constitution also failed.


  • incorrect court ruling, IMO
    I disagree with Max. Since while yes I won't disagree smoking is different than voting rights, you can't deny that anti-smoking groups with an agenda don't already try to greatly exaggerate the effects of cigarette smoke. If smoking is as dangerous as anti groups always like to claim, then these groups should've been advocating for the outlawing of cigarettes years ago. I still believe that as long as cigarettes are legal, that ANY adult-only establishment that doesn't serve minors should be allowed to set their own policy on smoking. The new Indy smoking ban is still wrong to me, since it treats other adult establishments(I.e. private clubs, and OTB/sports wagering businesses) differently than bars and taverns in exempting them from the smoking ban. Either all adult-only establishments should be covered under the ban, or all such businesses should be exempted. At least the Evansville court case, rightfully struck down that city's smoking ban!
  • Correct ruling
    Joe is right. Despite what some think, all liberties may be limited. For some liberties, it takes very special circumstances to limit them (free speech rights are nearly inviolable, as are voting rights). Some rights, like smoking (although I won't concede anyone has a right to smoke at all, much less in an enclosed public space), can be limited by a much lower standard. Smoking ain't voting rights, people.
  • Puffin' Goin' Away
    There is no such thing as rights when a substances kill those who use it and has the power to do the same to those around it. We've paid billions of the years due to the disease and death caused by tobacco in the workplace, insurance markets, restaurants etc. It's time for Indianapolis to ban smoking EVERYWHERE and that includes parks etc. It's not about rights, it's about health.
  • Bad day for our liberties
    Shame on the judge for this ruling. This is an a front to our liberties!

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  1. Those of you yelling to deport them all should at least understand that the law allows minors (if not from a bordering country) to argue for asylum. If you don't like the law, you can petition Congress to change it. But you can't blindly scream that they all need to be deported now, unless you want your government to just decide which laws to follow and which to ignore.

  2. 52,000 children in a country with a population of nearly 300 million is decimal dust or a nano-amount of people that can be easily absorbed. In addition, the flow of children from central American countries is decreasing. BL - the country can easily absorb these children while at the same time trying to discourage more children from coming. There is tension between economic concerns and the values of Judeo-Christian believers. But, I cannot see how the economic argument can stand up against the values of the believers, which most people in this country espouse (but perhaps don't practice). The Governor, who is an alleged religious man and a family man, seems to favor the economic argument; I do not see how his position is tenable under the circumstances. Yes, this is a complicated situation made worse by politics but....these are helpless children without parents and many want to simply "ship" them back to who knows where. Where are our Hoosier hearts? I thought the term Hoosier was synonymous with hospitable.

  3. Illegal aliens. Not undocumented workers (too young anyway). I note that this article never uses the word illegal and calls them immigrants. Being married to a naturalized citizen, these people are criminals and need to be deported as soon as humanly possible. The border needs to be closed NOW.

  4. Send them back NOW.

  5. deport now