Johnson County officials repeal public smoking ordinance

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Officials in a central Indiana county have repealed a local public smoking ordinance that was stricter than a statewide law the General Assembly approved earlier this year.

Commissioners in Johnson County, just south of Indianapolis, voted 3-0 this week to repeal the countywide restrictions, which had been slated to begin Jan. 5.

The ban would have prohibited smoking in all bars, restaurants, businesses, hotels, private clubs and outdoor areas of parks and fairgrounds. The ordinance faced little opposition when it was adopted by a 3-0 vote Nov. 5, Commissioner Troy DeHart said.

"I just don't think that anybody really paid attention to it," DeHart told The Indianapolis Star. "The opposition wasn't there."

But commissioners began to receive complaints shortly after the ban was adopted, prompting the second vote.

DeHart said he voted for the ban the first time around because of the adverse health effects of smoking and secondhand smoke. But, he said, the issue is one of personal choice.

"I felt like we really infringed upon what this country was founded on. It's not an issue of not smoking or smoking, it's a loss of freedom," he said. "I humbly said it more than once that I felt I made a mistake. I will stick to my guns. I made that mistake."

A state law, which took effect July 1, bans smoking inside public buildings and places of employment but has exceptions for bars and casinos. It also allows not-for-profit private clubs such as fraternal and veterans organizations to permit smoking, but only in a designated room with separate ventilation that is off limits to those younger than 18.

West said he doesn't believe the county needed to go beyond the state's smoking ban.

"Where you begin to legislate behavior, people are going to rebel against it. They're going to find ways around it. So, I think a lot of it comes back to personal decisions, personal rights," Commissioner Ron West told Indianapolis radio station WIBC-FM 93.1.

Franklin and Greenwood already have smoking laws, though the Greenwood ban is not as extensive.

Zach Kyle, owner of The Blind Pig bar in Greenwood, said commissioners made the right decision by repealing the ban.

"I think they're going to see that our businesses are going to do just fine," he said. "It was the right decision to leave small business owners alone."

West and DeHart both said commissioners may consider a less strict measure next year.


  • Great job Wish I could
    Well "Wish I could-support local" doesn't it feel good to have the option to support local but won't because you don't want to smell like an ashtray when you leave the bar? That's your dollars not going there and if enough people feel the way you do, the market will decide for these establishments how they need to run. NOT THE GOVERNMENT! That is a beautiful thing! I hope that you support the right for these establishments to decide for themselves and don't support the government legislating the change. Even though we don't want to smell like an ashtray, we support the freedom for each to decide this for themselves not be legislated and dictated how they should run their establishment or whether we can go to these places or avoid them. Whew! Run on sentence, the protection of freedom gets me worked up.
  • Smart move
    First you let them tell private businesses whether they can allow smoking, then you let them take your guns because they are too dangerous, then you let them take your cars and homes because they are not green, then you let them tell you how many kids you should have and what sex they should be, then you just take your rations and keep quiet. Johnson county is backwards, but it made the right move here.
  • Wish I could...
    This is disappointing. I was looking forward to supporting my local hometown bars but will continue to make the trek to Franklin or downtown.
  • Fed up!
    I forgot to mention how fed up I am with people calling this a backward state every time they don't limit freedom more to accomodate people who feel that behavior should be legislated. I think we are Extremely progressive for fighting off the loss of freedom while the more "backward" states feel that their constituants can't decide how to behave (and accept the consequences of those behaviors) for themselves!
  • Not True
    There are a lot of states that don't have statewide smoking bans coverying every business establishment. The scientific evidence on secondhand smoke being a health hazard is extremely weak. But even if it weren't it is my personal choice to subject myself to any risk. No one puts a gun to my head and makes me walk into a business establishment that has smoking
  • smoking
    I opened a barber shop in franklin before they the no smoking ordinance I smoke so that is something I don't understand If you don't want to come into my shop u are free to go somewhere else I promise I won't have a problem but if I have a customer that smokes why sould they not have the right to go to a place and smoke a legal product that we are paying redicules amounts of taxes on, too many commies out there for me did I mention that was a Marine that thought he was serving a free country!
  • Response to KC
    Yup - Gay marriage, civil unions, abortion, spousal rights for gay couples. Also gun ownership, religious practice, free markets, capitalism, and no such thing as too big to fail. Did I miss anything?
  • Reply to Just Curious KC
    Absolutely! My Freedom includes Gay marriage, as long as the freedoms of the church are in no way infringed upon when it's institued.... I am 100% for allowing full benefits to same sex partners and "marriage" as long as churches, that believe differently than me about this, are not forced in any way - legally - to have to accept it.
    • Good one KC
      You don't expect right-wingers to think logically do you?
    • Distraction
      Ten of our states had more murders than all of Canada in 2011---and Chicago itself almost equaled it. We are 37th in science education (we were first in 1969). White females have lost five years of life expectancy in the last ten years. Average real wages have been flat since 1978 (while productivy has increase 80% oddly enough--who is taking the $$?). I understand cigarettes kill, but I think we have more fundamental problems than cigarette smoking. We lack political parties that think and protect us. We need a third party.
    • Just curious
      Do your so called "freedoms" extend to gay marriage?? If Indiana is the land of freedom then......
      • Not a Treatment
        Bankruptcies and Job Losses won't prevent / cure cancer either. Plenty of choices for both smokers and non's. Vote with your wallet...the market will take care of itself. If no one went to smoking-allowed establishments, they'd adjust and adapt to get patrons all on their own, and those that don't will fail on their own, without government putting a gun to their head and pulling the trigger for them. The very admission by an elected official of a mistake is cause for a parade. Someone call Ripley's...they'll never believe it.
      • Bravo!
        I really appreciate any politician who feels that legislating behavior is wrong. I'm betting these commisioners get voted back in for supporting FREEDOM. I would vote for them for president and or senator of U.S. of A. We need to protect freedom of choice. The commisioner made a great point; the bans should be in place to protect children in places where they are, but places that are for adults only should be protected by each adults own choices. WAKE UP AND SMELL THE FREEDOM! (Even if it smells like a nasty ashtray- it smells sweet to smell people's right to choose!)
      • Nanny State
        I believe businesses & individuals should have the right to allow or ban smoking at their own locations. Why do we need a law? If I don't like smoking, I will just not go to the bar that has smoking. If we are truly interested in public health why not just ban tobacco? FYI Just because other states allow or don't allow a certain activity does make Johnson County "backward and uneducated".
      • Only in Indiana
        Another embarrassment for the state but mostly for Johnson County. It will be Mitch Daniels' legacy that he didn't pass a statewide ban.
      • Cancer
        It too exists in many, many places in this state.
        • Freedom
          At least it still exists in some places in this state.
        • Johnson County
          Well this makes a statement as to how backward and uneducated this county and its officials are. All you can do is vote such poor quality officials out of office next time. This is one of the every few states that does not ban all smoking in public places...inside or out.

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          1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

          2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

          3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

          4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

          5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.