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Indiana Senate approves diluted state smoking ban

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For all the bluster a statewide smoking ban sparked at the beginning of the 2012 legislative session, the version Indiana lawmakers may end up approving seems little more than a wisp of smoke.

The Senate approved a statewide ban Wednesday for the first time in its history, with 13 Democrats joining 16 Republicans for a 29-21 vote. But the proposal passed hardly resembles the one the House has approved six times in recent years.

"The bill has so many exemptions it's unacceptable," said Amanda Estridge, Indiana lobbyist for the American Cancer Society, which has opposed smoking bans in the past for not covering enough businesses.

Senators added exemptions for bars, charity gambling operations, veterans' homes and nursing homes. They also expanded exemptions the House had added for private clubs, such as the VFW and American Legion, and the state's gambling industry, which would be protected statewide from local restrictions.

By the end of the exercise, Senate supporters said the "horrible bill" was the best they could do and will seek to salvage it in final negotiations with House lawmakers.

Indiana's legislative leaders have said they plan to end the 2012 session March 9, which gives negotiators just over a week to come up with a compromise.

Senate Democratic Leader Vi Simpson, of Bloomington, said the proposed ban was a health issue.

"When I'm around somebody who smokes, I have to breathe that air. ... It's shared air. And we know the effects of secondhand smoke," she said.

But the additional exemptions secured critical support among senators who had previously opposed a ban. Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, held himself out as the prime example, saying the exemption for bars made him change his mind.

"For the first time, I'm going to support a smoking ban today," he said.

Long said he felt strongly that people ought to be able to work in a smoke-free environment but also wanted to see smoking allowed in bars. He said that only adults are allowed to enter bars, and adults have a choice about being exposed to smoke that children don't.

Roughly two months ago, the ban appeared to have significant momentum. Gov. Mitch Daniels included a statewide smoking ban in his final legislative agenda, and Senate lawmakers said it was time for the issue to get a vote.

But with the ban in trouble, Gary Democratic Rep. Charlie Brown, who co-authored the tougher House proposal with Cicero Republican Rep. Eric Turner, said Daniels needs to begin lobbying for the measure.

"We're going to have to rely heavily on the governor, the governor has got to get more active in this thing, if in fact he has a keen interest in public policy on smoke-free air," Brown said shortly after the Senate voted.

Daniels' has had an uncharacteristically light presence around the Statehouse this session, often going weeks at a time without scheduling a public appearance in Indianapolis. Instead, he's been traveling around the state and the nation. Earlier in his tenure, Daniels was more of a fixture, especially when pushing major priorities, such as the leasing of the Indiana Toll Road.

A Daniels spokeswoman said he was happy the bill was one step closer to reaching his desk for a signature, but did not answer questions about the governor's lobbying efforts.

As in previous years, arguments over exemptions have threatened to trip up the measure. Several senators who testified before Wednesday's vote said they were no longer sure what the bill stood for because of rampant exemptions.

Most opponents, such as Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, and Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, argued that they philosophically oppose the government telling them what they can do in their private life.

"Next we'll be telling people how many Snickers bars they can buy in a year," Boots said.

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  • when will MN.
    when Minnesota makes this law become to start here which is no smoking in the state is when I know Minnesota really cares and cares about the money they spend.
  • health issues
    I don't smoke anymore. Lets ban the fast food businesses because we all know how harmful grease is to our lives.
  • Workers Too, Not Just Patrons
    So often the focus is on the patrons of a business, but the ban offers protections to those workers who find themselves – as I once did – having to choose between unemployment or accepting an available job in a business where second-hand smoke will be unavoidable. Businesses that admit citizens under the age of 21 shouldn’t be exempt from the ban.
  • smoking is legal
    smoking is legal, businesses are owned by private citizens. private citizens can determine what legal products can be used on their property. people are free to choose the businesses they patronize.
    • Ban Excess Calories
      Isn't smoking the only activity on your list that negatively effects those around them?
    • Why not allow nudity in all bars and sex whenever you want!
      For Senators Phil Boots and Mike Young, if personal choice means you can do anything you choose, even if it effects the people around you, then why not open it up to allow anything to take place in bars and taverns that a person may choose to do? I don't understand your reasoning that a total smoking ban tells you what you can or can't do in your private life. That's only in " open to the public places". You can still choose to smoke it's just not in buildings where the public is welcome. If ALL bars and taverns are non-smoking, doesn't that even out the playing field for businesses?
    • Ban Excess Calories
      Smoking may have grave societal costs, but so does diabetes, heart disease and obesity, much of which is every bit as self-inflicted as smoking, at least on the person who does it.

      Then, let's ban smoking. As long as we're at it, let's also take away those nasty unecessary calories from all the anti-smoking do-gooders who can't see their own feet, but who want to control the smokers.

      Then let's go after those awful drinkers. We'll get their booze away from them! Think of the lives we'll save when we eliminate beer and wine.

      And then we move on the potheads. They're wasted and won't even know what we're up to until after we've taken their weed away.

      Then let's go after prescription drugs -- we'll rid the world of people who want pain meds after having their teeth pulled from eating too much candy.

      Oh yeah, then there's candy....
      • Government Blowing Smoke
        For all who believe you have a right as an American citizen to smoke are dillusional. It is not a Constitutional Right to pollute the health of non-smoking citizens. Just as you say non-smokers have the choice of visiting an establishment with smokers, those smokers have the right not to visit the same establishment if they go smoke free. I smoked for 20 years, and never felt a right to be able to smoke where and when I wanted to. Those who complain about the ban are those afraid of making a positive change in their life and quitting the nasty habit.
      • Dollars and Sense
        Smoking has grave societal costs for both the smoker and non-smokers who are exposed. The costs smoking has on Medicare alone make it worthwhile for all Hoosiers to see a strict band on smoking. While individuals have rights their choices affect all of us.
      • A state to be proud of!
        I am proud to say I come from Indiana. A state that does not follow states such as California and New York in their stripping of personal freedoms and stripping the rights of private business owners.

        The country should take notice of this fine state and it's stand agains the slow erosion of freedom.

        • state legislature
          Rep. Charlie Brown are you kidding rely on this governor...thats a joke. what does he care he is leaving
        • smoking
          Hey Vi, don"t go around people that smoke, your an adult and can make your own choices, can"t you. maybe your like alot of polititians, someone makes choices for you. we really don"t need polititians like you. Mike Alte

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