City Government and Local Government and Smoking Ban and Legislation and Government & Economic Development and Public Safety and Government

Council to hear plan for stricter smoking ban

October 5, 2009
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A proposal that would prevent smokers from lighting up in all indoor public places in Marion County is expected to meet fierce resistance from bar owners who oppose a stricter smoking ban.

The ordinance would prohibit lighting up in bars, bowling alleys and nightclubs, and nearby outdoor seating areas as well. It would give the city a stricter smoking ban similar to those in 11 other Indiana communities and 26 states, including neighboring Illinois and Ohio.

City-County Councilor Angela Mansfield, a Democrat, is co-sponsoring the proposal along with Republican Ben Hunter. They plan to introduce the proposal at tonight’s meeting.

Mansfield supported a tougher ban in 2005, when councilors ultimately adopted the current version, and thinks momentum is building for a stricter ordinance.

“Four years ago, other than Bloomington, a comprehensive ban was a foreign concept, even though people said they recognized the health issues,” she said. “Now it’s generally accepted.

”Franklin and Zionsville are among the other Indiana communities that have passed a tougher ban. But strong resistance has led others such
as Avon, Carmel and Greenwood to pass partial bans.

Just last month, Westfield opted for a weaker ordinance that exempts bars and restaurants that don’t allow patrons younger than 21 years old.

Simon Robinson, owner of Nicky Blaine’s cigar bar in downtown Indianapolis, is among those who oppose a comprehensive smoking ban.

”It’s a very significant part of our business,” he said of the cigars it sells. “We still would sell an awful lot of martinis, but that’s what Nicky Blaine’s is.”

Robinson said his bar likely would survive a comprehensive smoking ban but argued that prohibiting smoking in public places statewide would be the fairest solution to the contentious issue.

Mansfield expects many of the city’s tavern owners to oppose the stricter proposal.

“But quite frankly,” she said, “I think their arguments are tiresome and meritless.”

At least one bar owner, however, won’t challenge a stricter ban. As a non-smoker, Adam Isenburg, a co-owner of Coaches Tavern on South Pennsylvania Street, would welcome the change.

“It would not hurt my feelings,” he said. “I don’t like that I have to be subjected to it, but I understand that it’s part of the business.”

Coaches’ management decided in June to go smoke-free from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays to accommodate business professionals who eat lunch at the bar. Isenburg said it’s still too early to tell whether the noon-time ban is generating more customers.

A total ban would be an adjustment but not something that would kill business, he said.

“People tend to resist change, but overall, I think it would be a good thing,” Isenburg said.

After tonight’s introduction, the ordinance will be presented to the Community Affairs Committee on Oct. 14 before the full Council votes on it Oct. 26.

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