State should go smoke-free

March 12, 2011
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IBJ Letters To The Editor

Less than a month ago, it seemed almost certain that Indiana would join the ranks of two dozen other states and the District of Columbia—including our neighbors Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin—in enacting a statewide, comprehensive smoke-free-air law.

It now appears that some lawmakers have been unwittingly influenced by opponents of smoke-free air and have succeeded in weakening House Bill 1018 to exempt bars, nursing homes, private clubs and casinos from protecting their employees from the devastating effects of secondhand smoke.

While the health effects of secondhand smoke are well-documented and can no longer be contested, opponents of smoke-free air are clinging to the waning hope that lawmakers will be convinced smoke-free air is bad for business. However, they couldn’t be more mistaken.

Numerous studies conducted by some of the nation’s top academic institutions and reports from state agencies have consistently shown that smoke-free-air laws do not harm business. One year after the state of Washington went smoke-free, bar and tavern revenue was up 20 percent. Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York and Florida, just to name a few, saw no significant impact in revenue, and employment in the hospitality industry was not affected.

Here in Indiana, communities that have adopted smoke-free-air ordinances have seen almost immediate benefits to the clear air. According to the Indiana Center for Health Policy, one month after Fort Wayne expanded its smoke-free ordinance to include bars and private clubs, bar and restaurant receipts increased 39 percent. Since Plainfield went smoke-free in 2006, the amount of money collected from food and beverage taxes continues to increase.  

Perhaps the most convincing bit of evidence that shows smoke-free laws do not harm business can be found in a Michigan Department of Treasury report released in December. In the months following enactment of Michigan’s smoke-free-air law, a comparison of year-over-year sales tax receipts showed that there was actually an overall increase of 0.11 percent in total sales tax collections from retail eating and drinking establishments.

This is particularly interesting when one takes into account that Michigan’s economy has been arguably the most affected by the recession, and Michigan was the only state to lose population, according to the 2010 census.

The next few weeks will be critical to the fate of the smoke-free-air legislation. Advocates of smoke-free air include some of the state’s most influential health care and business organizations. With more than $390 million spent each year on secondhand-smoke-related health care costs in Indiana, the Hoosier state simply can’t afford not to go smoke-free.


Susan M. Rawl
Vice president, board of directors
American Cancer Society
Great Lakes Division Inc.


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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.