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Indiana Senate exempts bars from smoking ban

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Indiana senators on Tuesday gutted a proposal to ban smoking statewide, leading anti-tobacco advocates to oppose the severely weakened measure.

Senators voted to exempt bars and charitable gambling operations from the proposed ban. They also expanded other carve-outs already added by House lawmakers, including exemptions for the state's gambling industry, private clubs like VFW lodges, and tobacco and cigar stores.

Amanda Estridge, Indiana lobbyist for the American Cancer Society, said her group opposes the measure as overhauled by the Senate but will push for lawmakers to change it in a conference committee. The Senate is scheduled to take another vote on the ban Wednesday, deciding whether the measure gets hashed out in committee.

Estridge was skeptical that the Senate was as committed to making Indiana the 30th state to ban smoking statewide as the Indiana House is, which passed the measure 62-34 earlier this month.

"It's smoke and mirrors to make it look like they're doing something," she said of the Senate's efforts.

ACS and other anti-smoking advocates have typically chafed at any exemptions, but supported the modified House ban this year with the hopes of finally getting something in place.

"This is ridiculous. Obviously a majority of those amendments are intended to kill the bill," said Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, after the Senate vote. Brown co-authored the measure with Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, and watched quietly from the back of the Senate as the ban was weakened bit by bit.

But supporters of the new exemptions, such as Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldsburg, said the vast majority of businesses would still be covered by the ban.

"Your implement stores, your lawnmower stores, go down the street there will not be any smoking in any of those places," said Leising, who authored most of the changes. However, after Tuesday's debate she said she was unsure whether she would vote for the final measure.

The broadest carve-out from senators Tuesday was for Indiana's bars and taverns, whose owners complained to a Senate panel that their clientele would flock to casinos and private clubs not covered by the smoking ban. But the Senate also added more time for cigar and tobacco stores to open before the ban kicks in, trimmed the space outside public buildings that would be smoke-free from 12 feet to 8 feet and exempted veterans nursing homes from the ban.

"I will vote for this horrible bill and hope it makes it to conference," said Senate Democratic Leader Vi Simpson, of Bloomington, referencing the conference committee. She said she will ask Democrats to support the measure as well.

Exemptions have historically been the stumbling block for the ban. Some supporters of the ban this year have held their noses and voted for the measure they call hypocritical.

The ban got a boost this year after Gov. Mitch Daniels included it in his final legislative agenda before he leaves office.

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  • hmmmm
    Indianapolis and the state of Indiana have to jump over the cliff, just because so many local cities and communities, states, provinces, and foreign countries have screwed over their businesses under total smoking bans, eh? I don't think so, you don't just screw over private businesses, because of the demands of selfish anti-smoking lobbyists. Or pick and choose the winners and losers(i.e. casino lobbyists, etc.), as was the Indiana House version of the smoking ban bill was like till this week. Have some of the people who have a misguided view in favor of a total smoking ban gone out of the way to talk to owners of smoking establishments that were greatly hurt(including in subtle ways, such as being forced to decrease hours of operation, employees facing reduced tips, job layoffs(i.e. 30 jobs lost in February 2008 at the Harrah's Metropolis Casino in southern Illinois), and sometimes permanent closure) in surrounding states, and in the few Indiana communities and counties foolish enough to adopt total bans? (i.e. Delaware County, Bloomington, Fort Wayne, etc.)

    You either treat ALL adult businesses the same way, or you kill this smoking ban bill. It is only fair to kill such a bill, if all adult-only businesses weren't treated the same way, until the Senate amendments passed yesterday. Hopefully, Indiana lawmakers will drop this issue, once and for all. Rational people already can make the choice to walk out of businesses permitting smoking, if they do not approve of that business' smoking policy, and patronize a smoke-free establishment instead. It hasn't been hard to find smoke-free establishments anyway for years, and many bars have already instituted voluntary bans, which is more than fair.
  • Thank Goodness
    I for one am very happy this bill is being effectively killed. Until they include casinos into this, I will be strongly against this. As it stood, this bill sent a very poor message to our society. Simply, we care about second hand smoke for employees of traditional bars, but Casino's on the other hand, we don't give a crap about their employees. I fully support a accross the board smoking ban, but lets not leave out casinos. There employees mean as much to me as employees of the neighborhood smoke pit. Equality is important in this country, and until we make a bill that is equal. I will not support it.
  • Hopeless
    The fact that many representatives in the statehouse proudly denounce science leads me to believe they likely don't understand the correlation between smoking and poor health. The lack of rational political leadership in Indiana is astounding. I guess we can always just pray the lung cancer away ;)
  • wus up wit dat
    Define "bars"??? Any place that happens to serve alcohol?

    So OUR Family will now be subjected to the fake "smoking sections" at the likes of AppleBees and other places that we like to frequent with the Family and friends for the occasional riblet because THEY serve beer, etc???

    Gee...I was just HOPING that I could return to the day that I could inhale second hand smoke along with every bite!!!

    THANKS you government DORKS!
  • What a joke
    This is why Indiana is up there with Mississippi and Alabama as the laughing stock of the nation. So sad...
  • Really?
    Our mayor blocks a smoking ban. Now our state senate wants a smoking ban without the whole pesky "ban" part of it.

    This is unacceptable. Hey, members of the local and state government: WAKE UP!!! Want to be a progressive, modern city/state that attracts the best & brightest? Then news flash: This is 2012. Act like it. I dare you.
  • What a Joke!
    So let's get this straight: You disapprove of mass transit and smoke-free environments, but you're really keen on creationism, making sure everyone sings the "Star Spangled Banner" as God intended it to be sung, and branding Girl Scouts as lesbian abortionists?

    And yet you wonder why most of the nation thinks "Hoosier" means "rube". Go figure...

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