EDITORIAL: Statewide smoking ban is overdue

 IBJ Staff
November 27, 2010
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IBJ Editorial

The scientific evidence has been there for years. The financial argument is easy to make. Yet the idea of protecting the public from the potentially deadly effects of secondhand smoke hasn’t caught fire in the halls of power—at least that’s been the case in Indiana.

While 27 other states and cities large and small across the country have stepped up to protect the public’s health by outlawing smoking just about everywhere except private homes and the great outdoors, Indiana and its largest city have failed to act.

The state hasn’t done anything. In Indianapolis, the partial smoking ban that went into effect in 2006 was a good start, but the city’s bars and some of its restaurants are still thick with smoke. Mayor Greg Ballard’s reluctance to get behind a stronger ordinance is a black eye for a city trying to become a magnet for life sciences workers and conventions.

Finally, however, there’s a glimmer of hope. As IBJ reported this month, at least some among the vocal minority who’ve thwarted government action up until now are beginning to see the handwriting on the wall.

As state Rep. Charlie Brown prepares to introduce for the fifth time a bill that would ban smoking in all enclosed public spaces, John Livengood, one of the chief lobbyists working against such a law, told IBJ the ban is inevitable and that opposition to it is weakening.

In Indianapolis, evidence is mounting—at least anecdotally—that the very business owners Livengood and his supporters have tried to protect are ready for a change. It’s not hard to find a bar owner who wants to go smoke-free and would happily comply if only the watering hole down the street had to do the same. Some have tried to straddle the line by instituting non-smoking hours.

What is needed is a comprehensive law that levels the playing field and allows everyone to compete for customers with the same set of rules—in the best interest of public health.

We hope 2011 is the year the Indiana General Assembly passes this common-sense measure. If for some reason it doesn’t, Indianapolis must take action. It’s too late to lead the way in a state where dozens of towns and cities have already made the right move, but in this case being a follower is preferable to isolating the city as one of only a handful where working in or entering a bar is hazardous to your health.

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To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.


  • Mene Mene Tekel
    I laughed when I read this sentence in your editorial: "...at least some among the vocal minority whoâ??ve thwarted government action up until now are beginning to see the handwriting on the wall."

    The expression "handwriting on the wall" is from the Book of Daniel 5: 25-28. Daniel interpreted the mysterious handwriting on the wall to mean that the king's deeds had been weighed and found deficient and that his kingdom would therefore be divided.

    In the Summer 2010 Cato Institute policy paper "The Economic Losers from Smoking Bans," the author states, "A 2003 study that I also conducted with John Dunham of Wisconsin of bar and restaurant owners concluded that bar owners lost business 50 percent more often than restaurant owners following adoption of a local smoking ban. Smoking ban studies that disaggregate to the level of business in the United Kingdom, Scotland, and India also yield evidence of differential effects. . .

    "Some might also worry that smoking bans in effect target specific locations for harm such as those catering to smokers and alcohol drinkers. That raises the possibility that bans are used to systematically target individuals who gather at bars, veterans associations, and fraternal organizations. It would appear that these individuals matter less in our definition of communities than those not targeted, when one accepts the validity of a â??community effectsâ?? methodology to
    judge whether or not a ban causes economic harm. If true, it would be more ethical to simply state that targeting such locations for harm is appropriate rather than pretending that no one suffers harm or that, even if there are more winners than losers, that bans do not systematically penalize some in our communities more than others."


    When NJ passed its full-scale smoking ban, I stopped going to bars because I no longer enjoyed it. A local tavern I used to go to called Chauncey's, which had been in business since 1946, went under a year after the ban was implemented because 95% of its clientele were smokers.

    If smokers in Indiana do what smokers in NJ did, there will be 26% less business for everyone (or in any event) less business for everyone than exists now. All this law does is handicap businesses who cater to smokers. This is EXACTLY why Livengood identified a total ban as "leveling the playing field." He knows smokers patronize places that allow them to smoke.

    I'm waiting for states with full-scale bans to wake up to the possibility that they'll have to enact legislation mandating a minimum number of times annually that smokers patronize smoke-free bars and restaurants because--if they don't--there will inevitably be a significant decrease in aggregate hospitality industry business.

    In bad financial times, this is a really, REALLY stupid move. You are NOT a good man, Charlie Brown.

  • some final things
    If the negative experience of Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio doesn't do enough to scare Indiana lawmakers away from pursuing a ban, they absolutely should talk to bar and club owners in Fort Wayne, West Lafayette, Zionsville, Greencastle, Franklin, unincorporated Hancock County, and other parts of the state that were foolish enough to believe the lies of the anti-smoking lobby, and bought them hook and sinker.

    Which bring me to 2 last points to make: the fact that all anti-smoking groups and lobbyists are strictly instructed to keep coming back to each place that has a partial ban in place, until all exemptions are removed(even for outdoor patios and other outdoor settings). They also insist on a very strict national model ordinance, which only does nothing but greatly hurt private businesses catering to smokers. And why I've always believed the Indianapolis/Marion County city-county council nailed a very great balance on the smoking issue that eliminated it in just the right places(while still giving latitude to adult-only private businesses to set their non-smoking/smoking rules as they want), when they approved the existing ordinance in 2005.

    http://www.no-smoke.org/pdf/CIA_Fundamentals.pdf (instructions for all smoking ban coalitions to follow, this is a must read for anyone not familiar with their tactics. there are many rules they follow, such as discouraging coalitions for collecting signatures for a smoking ban referendum, though they don't outright prohibit groups from taking this approach.)
    http://www.no-smoke.org/document.php?id=229 (the current smoking ban model ordinance goes so far, that there is no exemption for even tobacco shops or private clubs! and I'm surprised it even allows for motels to have 10% of their rooms as smoking, considering they removed the tobacco shop exemption only since this new version of the model ordinance came out.)
  • IBJ, time to move on from this issue, methinks?
    Indiana is a state that historically has done a good job of respecting property rights, why should it pass a total ban that spits on the private property rights of establishments that cater to smokers? It isn't 1995 anymore, there already are tons of smoke-free establishments(even non-chain places) one can freely patronize. Has a single member of IBJ's editorial staff even looked into how badly smoking bans have hurt 3 states surrounding Indiana that adopted them(Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio)?

    I'd have at least a marginal bit of respect for this paper, if it advocated removing all state taxes on tobacco while entirely banning smoking in all places, or entirely banning its sale in any form outright. (never mind many use tobacco, and don't die from any tobacco-related diseases, but old age) If Indiana or Indianapolis lawmakers foolishly think all bars and clubs will comply with a ban if enacted tomorrow, they obviously haven't looked at the major disobedience adult establishments have shown against total bans in Ohio and New York CIty.

  • Why Media Lies
    First of all, they get LOTS of money from these pro ban grant spongers in ad dollars. Second, they are not supporting a ban on smoking. If they were, this editorial writer would be howling for the State to ban the selling of tobacco products. He won't. The media will not make the huge grocers and convenience stores angry by suggsting that. (They buy big ads!)The State does not want people to stop buying tobacco products! The second hand smoke scare was created by Johnson and Johnson, and all ban ads and ban lobbying are funded by them. Hundreds of Millions per year. They want to demonize people onto THEIR products, and they have used politicians and once sacred charities to make laws to sale their products. They sell Nicoderm, Nicorette, Nicotrol, Nicoderm CQ, and Commit. (They also advertise these products in the papers.) The papers are taking care of the big boys. Little bars and diners and bingo halls are NOT big advertisers. So, to continue to revenue for the big ad buyers, the paper supports this hypocrasy. The State will NEVER give up the revenue from tobacco, nor will the Feds. J&J and their "philanthropic arm" the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation benefit from smoking bans in small business. The State does not. Small businesses are failing in EVERY State that was duped, or bought off, to pass smoking bans. The nicotine replacement products of J&J do not work. 1.4% success rate after MANY attempts. If you want to quit,do it cold turkey. It has a higher success rate. The American Cancer Society receives the most in grant funds every year from J&J to lobby for bans, and they produce paid doctor speakers to lie for them concerning second hand smoke studies. The ACS is sitting on a 1.6 BILLION dollar interest earning savings account. Their two main guys take home 1.6 and 1.3 MILLION dollars per year. THey have NEVER given a nickel to a poor sick person. It is an INSULT for them to call themselves a charity. They are a lobby group, funded by pharma. I don't know who makes me sicker, a lobby group calling itself a charity, or a newspaper who refuses to tell both sides of an issue, and who has NO problem lying for money.
  • Why?
    Senator Brown's vile hate campaign for veterans clubs and small businesses is disgusting.

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