Governor and Legislature and State Government and Smoking Ban and Legislation and Government & Economic Development and Government and Public Safety

Indiana legislators approve smoking restrictions

March 9, 2012

The Indiana Senate on Friday narrowly approved a statewide smoking ban proposal and sent it to the governor, who is expected to sign it into law.

The ban approved by senators in a 28-22 vote will still give people plenty of places to light up since it exempts Indiana's bars, casinos and private clubs, such as veterans and fraternal organizations.

Lawmakers seeking a tougher ban swallowed hard on the compromise, saying it was better to approve some type of ban now and return to it for more extensive restrictions later. Public health advocates argued the measure was too weak after bars were cut out of the ban.

The House approved the ban Thursday night in a 60-33 vote. Gov. Mitch Daniels made adoption of Indiana's first statewide smoking restrictions part of his legislative agenda and has said he expected to sign the bill.

Bill sponsor Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, said she had hoped for a more comprehensive bill, but knew that the exemptions were needed in order for it to clear the Legislature.

"It will result in the protection of the health of hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers from secondhand smoke," Gard said in urging senators to support the bill.

Several senators argue that business owners should have the right to decide whether to allow smoking.

Earlier in the session, the House approved a ban on smoking in most public places and businesses that gave an 18-month exemption to bars, while the Senate passed a watered-down version last week that gave bars a complete exemption.

The compromise version negotiated this week also exempts casinos, private clubs, retail tobacco stores and some in-home businesses.

Danielle Patterson, co-chairwoman of the Indiana Campaign for Smokefree Air, said before the Senate's vote that she appreciated efforts by the bill's sponsors to win support for a tougher version. She said she thought it was important to include bars in the statewide ban, pointing out that the Indianapolis city smoking ban still exempts bars several years after it was adopted.

"We just feel that this was not the best bill for Hoosiers," Patterson said. "It will get something on the books but it may be five to seven years before we can improve it."

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