Why Indy seems slow to ban smoking

October 6, 2009
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As the City-County Council takes up a proposal to close loopholes in its anti-smoking ordinance, it seems like Indianapolis is one of the last large cities to ban smoking.

It isn’t, of course. Cincinnati, Detroit and Milwaukee continue to allow considerable latitude. Yet—still close to home—Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, are smoke-free in work places, restaurants and freestanding bars, according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. So is Louisville, the largest city in the tobacco haven of Kentucky.

If Indianapolis is considered a model on fronts ranging from downtown revitalization to fiscal responsibility, why is it so late to ban smoking?

George Geib, who has been observing Indianapolis as a Butler University historian for 45 years, has a theory. To understand the reluctance, Geib says, one must understand Indiana migration patterns and ultimately the coalitions and political movements arising from those patterns.

Indiana may be pretty white-bread when it comes to immigrants, but Geib points out that the state actually is quite diverse when domestic migration is considered. New Englanders, mid-Atlantic people, northerners and southerners all have put down roots here.

As a result, leaders of movements and political parties have struggled to build coalitions since at least the 1830s. The few coalitions that do get traction tend to focus on moral issues (Prohibition and bans on package liquor sales on Sundays) and economic matters (both unions and chambers of commerce maintain strong presences).

Geib thinks smoking bans have been slow to take hold because people pushing other causes worry about offending smokers who might be needed to help them get traction with their own pet issues.

“When you have a diverse state, there’s a lot of pressure on you to build coalitions,” he says.

Further complicating the turbulent political landscape is Indiana’s own role in the tobacco industry. The state’s allotments aren’t what they used to be, but Hoosiers in southern counties have long cultivated some of the most sought-after tobacco in the nation.

Both the ideological fractures and tobacco heritage are reflected in Indianapolis politics and smoking bans, says Geib, whose parents died of illnesses he’s certain resulted from smoking two packs of Camels a day.

What do you think of Geib’s ideas? Do you buy them? Is it harder to bring change here than in other places?

  • Perhaps Indy is slow to ban smoking because they have witnessed the business closings and job losses in states and cities that have done so. No lives have been saved by these extremely well funded bans. Many lives, however have suffered irreparable economic harm. Don't be of a sheeple mentality Indy. Smoking bans don't work. In Ohio, enforcement has been such a waste of tax payer dollars that 37 counties have opted out of enforcement.
  • Smoking bans ARE prohibition! It is not about health as witnessed when anti-smoking money dries up. With all of the negativity regarding smoking brought about by the pharmaceutical companies, and the war against the tobacco companies that directly benefit the big pharmas who market their own brand of nicotine, and the knowledge about the benefits of nicotine, why would the big pharmas want control of this? MONEY! The variety of conditions being studied reflects the excitement felt in the scientific community for the potential of nicotine: anxiety, depression, Alzheimer's, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, Parkinson's disease, diabetes and schizophrenia.
    • Those "exciting" studies have found that nicotine seems to EXACERBATE anxiety, depression, Alzheimer's, diabetes and schizophrenia (let alone the well-established links to heart disease, senile dementia, etc.).

      The ONLY condition nicotine appears to alleviate is Parkinson's. Period. Anything else is just PR, courtesy of dupe Marbee.
    • Actually, Cincinnati does have a full smoking ban- not by the choice of the city itself, but courtesy of a state-wide smoking ban. Cincinnati would not have done this on its own, due to the promixity of smoke-friendly Northern Kentucky. Predictably, after the Cincinnati bars went smoke-free, the bars across the river saw an already active scene skyrocket, and predictably, the national smoke nannies are now making Northern Kentucky a priority target (a mission which is likely to be unsuccessful).

      As for why Indy is not following the bandwagon? My guess is that it is simply because Indy is a business friendly city and less oriented than other cities towards the nanny-state. Hoosier common sense, I guess.
    • There is a coalition of people here in Indy working on this issue, Smoke Free Indy. This group has been working on the issue since 2004. It probably has taken this long because like most things in Indiana we are slow to adapt. We Hoosiers are never first on an issue so it is not surprising that we have not gone completely smoke free yet. But I do believe that we are finally at a point in which this can actually happen and we can now join the 27 other states already smoke free.
    • We can argue the pros & cons of smoking. Bans do damage the economy, drug companies do profit from the sale of nicotine replacement drugs to government and does fund anti-smoking laws and the smoke free folks od suck up huge amounts of money to preach their anti tobacco agenda.

      Truth is all this money could and should go to to research to find a cure for all cancers. The poor and the rich, even Congressmen will continue to die from cancer well into the future if we foolishly continue to only focus on tobacco use as the sole cause of cancer. It may contribute, but non smokers as well as smokers will die from cancer. I lost a loved one to cancer, not lung cancer, a non smoker.

      Stop this insane waste of funds and start demandng the drug companies and the health charities we all donate money to use our donated funds for research and stop chasing smokers, until and unless government outlaws tobacco use, it is a total waste of this precious research dollars.
      • Your logic is the most idiotic I've heard in recent memory. Your business logic of pound-of-cure is horrible. I hope you were being sarcastic.
      • It also might have something to do with being able to 'smell out' agenda funded radicalism vs common sense. Eradicating personal freedoms and potentially jeopardizing many business investments (especially in times like these) is absolutely indefensible. Because this particular city-county council feels it has the 'votes' to enact sweeping legislation doesn't make it right. Furthermore, I find it most interesting that these elected officials here, and elsewhere, have decided that their authority reigns supreme over national and international private organizational property and local private clubs. There are many things we would all like to eradicate. Too bad. Business interests and personal freedoms, especially those exercised for the past 450 years, should not be totally eradicated because some entity decides it suddenly does not reflect the slanted political landscape. Their numbers logic sounds like a lynch mob. "Well Bubba--it's 3 to 1 agin' ya. Pull out tha' rope--"
      • Those "exciting" studies have found that nicotine seems to EXACERBATE anxiety, depression, Alzheimer's, diabetes and schizophrenia (let alone the well-established links to heart disease, senile dementia, etc.).

        The ONLY condition nicotine appears to alleviate is Parkinson's. Period. Anything else is just PR.
      • Could it be that Hoosiers just support Constitutional protected property rights? You know, the right to use a legal product, in a legal manner, on private property?
      • As a non-smoker (whose parents were both heavy smokers), I can say unequivocally that we will NOT patronize any establisment that allows smoking. OK, so that limits us on downtown entertainment venues, but it's something to which we have learned to adapt. I travel extensively for business and I always find it interesting to see how many locations throughtout the world (yes, Virginia, there is a world outside of Indianapolis) have enacted stringent smoking bans. I can only imagine that something will have to freeze over before Indianapolis joins the exalted ranks of those areas that care enough about the citizenry rather than a way-too-vocal few to enact an all-encompassing smoking ban. Hallelujah to whenever that happens, if it ever does...
      • It's About Freedom Stupid!

        And, I don't even smoke. Nor, do I want to hear the Poor Oppressed Employees who have to work there. 99% of them enjoy smoking. Once again, It's about Freedom, you Pinko Commies!
      • If Louisville can vote to ban smoking, Indianapolis can. The fact that smokers feel it is their right to smoke anywhere they wish is frankly asinine. Yes, you have a right to do whatever you want to your body. However, since smoke permeates every crack and crevice in any given space, then you are infringing on MY space and on MY rights, and my rights are just as important as yours. Additionally, the assumption that I can just stay home so you can enjoy a bar is silly. There are actually more non-smokers than smokers. So, YOU stay home and kill yourself on your own time.
      • For the most part I am an agnostic on the topic of smoking bans. But, most owners of businesses want to just keep their customers happy. They know their clients and spaces better than the Council. So there should be a smoking option available to certain establishments. But it should come with a cost. A user fee. A license.
        While making restaurants non-smoking and hotels might make perfect sense, a bar needs some leniency. A leniency that allows the ownership who knows their clientele best to make a decision. So if a bar is completely limited to customers and employees 21 and above, then the ownership should have the ability to buy a premium smoking license, for $*,*** per year. So an over 21 establishment with a working liquor license could add a smoking license. This is already the case for the sale of tobacco products in these establishments. They pay an extra fee for the ability to sell cigarettes on the premises.
        It is such a small and obvious step to allow an owner to decide whether it is worth passing the cost of that premium on to his customers. I am betting that, many establishments, would take a pass on the premium license. Thus those establishments that find it worth the cost will continue to serve their smoking clientele and the likely majority of establishments would not. It seems a simple answer based in supply and demand economics. Far fewer customers and employees exposed would seem to be a win for the anti-smoking advocates too.
        I am guessing that state legislation would be in order for it to work. Such license is no doubt outside the realm of the City-County Council. But I would like to see the fiscal prediction of the funds that could be raised and perhaps directed to smoking cessation programs from such a premium license program.
      • Majorities rules but should be cognizant of minority rights. I am a non-smoker and have been for over 25 years. I donâ??t like the smell of it or to be around it but I donâ??t feel I have the right to tell somebody they canâ??t smoke just because I donâ??t like it. Why should my rights carry any more weight than theirs? Now we have banned smoking so many places the only places people can smoke is in their car or in their own home and that is not fair. Just have some places I can go smoke free and I am fine with it. Banning it everywhere is too much.
        What happens when the next thing they want to ban is something near and dear to YOUR heart?
        You want economic impact? How many taxes have we put on cigarettes to pay for stuff we donâ??t really need but it was the way our idiotic politicians could sell it? If we donâ??t provide any place for people to smoke, they wonâ??t buy the cigarettes and we will end up paying all those taxes ourselves.
        I say be careful what you wish for because you just may get it!
      • Go argue the "pros of smoking" with your tobacco company friends--who since the 50s have been making the diversionary "arguments" you make--any trick or sleight-of-tongue to shift attention from themselves. You don't suggest the money that tobacco cos earn off the deaths of millions should "go to research to find a cure for all cancers."

        Stopping someone from CAUSING cancer will dramatically decrease cancer rates--which would go down far more dramatically were it not for our still-high smoking rates.

        There's no argument about smoking's contribution to many cancers. Plus, science increasingly shows that smoking (and nicotine) contribute to _all_ cancers. And it's not just cancer. Smoking contributes to many other major diseases--heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's and others--all massively costly.

        Scientists will tell you it's far, far cheaper to _prevent_ disease than to cure it. (So long as you don't have fools or tobacco-stooges fighting against preventive efforts.)

        And THAT's why monies are given to tobacco control.

        Your argument would make as much sense if you said we should stop wasting money with hospitals and operations and things, and just have an massive all-out initiative to cure death.
      • That's what studies show, and it's why bans are passing in legislatures across the country. 27 states, hundreds of cities and counties, many Canadian provinces and a host of countries have full smokefree legislation. Despite the tobacco arguments better debaters than you have tried.
      • Making our healthcare costs and health care insurance would decrease if smoking were banned. Then would we even be having the health care debate that is going on in America today? Think all of the diseases smoking is linked to.

        Smokers have the right to smoke, but I also have the right to breathe clean air. Just because you choose to decrease the capacity of your lungs doesn't mean I want to do the same.
        • Looks like you haven't been to Louisville lately. Of course you won't see this in the Courier-Journal. They don't want it to get out. WAVE-TV did an undercover investigation a few months back. Out of the 12 bars they checked out 9 were still smoking. Their reason,they wanted to stay in business. Without letting people smoke they would have to close. If it were not for the well funded Anti-smokers there would be no smoking bans. It cost 6 million + to get the ban passed in Louisville. Money talks. Who's pockets are getting filled?
        • Multicenter Case study (IARC)
          In conclusion, our study provides the most precise available
          estimate of the effect of ETS on lung cancer risk in western
          European populations. We found no increased risk for childhood
          exposure, a result consistent with most of the available data. The
          risk from ever exposure to spousal ETS was consistent with the
          combined available evidence from European studies, but it was
          lower than some previous estimates.
          We also found an association of similar strength with
          workplace exposure. Doseâ??response relationships were more
          consistent and risks were higher, although in most cases they
          were not statistically significant, with combined indicators of spousal and workplace ETS exposure. http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/90/19/1440
        • If smoking caused so much in health care due to exhorbiant pricing I would think with all of the bans we should now get the health care industry to give us the interest they are making on their profits from it!
        • smoking?
          with all these laws to ban Smoking why do you still allow the feds to pay to growers? My God this country has become so obsessed with telling others what they can and can not do, its unreal!! the 1930's all over. Even our DMV workers have their nice Little uniforms they are now made to wear. Line up for your chips sheeple!! for the good of all!!
        • COMPROMISE
          Is this all about the employees health? In that case, how about requiring places that allow smoking to install air ventilation and filtration systems?? Does this not seem to be the perfect answer? ....without stepping all over our rights.

          If this was all really about health, and not about big brother telling people what they can and cannot do, then the air filtration system would make everybody happy. Or is this too obvious?
        • Give me a break!
          Here's a news flash....Smoking bans do not make people quit smoking!!! It's interesting that so many are quick to ban smoking but everyone has their hands out for the money collected from taxing smokers. Anti-smoking Nazi's make me sick. It's about personal responsibility and if someone chooses to smoke they should have a right to do so. If emloyees do not like working in a smokey environment then maybe they should work somewhere else. It's a free country....for now.
        • smoking and existing bans
          As for John's comment, wouldn't smoking actually cause health costs to be a little less, due to the fact one dies sooner than a non-smoker would? Just a little common sense that this is the real case!

          Back to the issue of smoking bans, Indianapolis' existing ban requires smoking establishments to post exterior signage stating they allow smoking, and follow the provision that NO ONE under 18 can be allowed to enter or be employed at all times. This provision is NOT very different from smoking bans already in effect in Owensboro/Daviess County, Wichita(KS), and the states of Georgia, Tennessee, and Arkansas. I think Indy's current smoking ordinance does not need to be tinkered with further, not to mention many private establishments that don't cater to minors have already moved to prohibit indoor smoking, as it is!

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        1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

        2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

        3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

        4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

        5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.