EDITORIAL: Time for mayor to clear the air, back smoking ban

 IBJ Staff
January 22, 2011
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IBJ Editorial

Another year, another parade of editorials, opinion pieces and studies that call for Indiana to join its neighbors in banning smoking in all workplaces. We’re confident Hoosier lawmakers will do the right thing and take a stand against this public health scourge—eventually.

In the meantime, Mayor Greg Ballard should come out of hiding on the smoking issue and make sure Indianapolis joins the 21st century where public smoking policy is concerned.

At the state level, Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, has introduced for the fifth time a bill that would ban smoking in all public places. Anecdotal evidence suggests legislators will be more receptive to a comprehensive ban this year and finally allow Indiana to join 29 states that have already taken a stand against the wasted lives and lost productivity caused by secondhand smoke.

But who knows what 150 legislators will do? The annual watering down of the bill has already begun with an exemption for casinos.

We’re more concerned with what our mayor and 29 members of the City-County Council will do to make sure Indianapolis doesn’t fall further behind its big-city peers—not to mention the numerous small towns in Indiana that have already disposed of the issue. Of the 30 largest cities in the country, Indianapolis is one of only six that still harbor smoke-filled bars.

That’s largely the fault of Ballard, who has been unwilling to lead on this issue in spite of public support for a ban and the economic consequences of not having one.

The Indiana Convention Center expansion that opened Jan. 20 should make the city competitive with the biggest convention cities in the country. But those who have the tough task of filling all that new space start at a disadvantage—especially when you consider one of their target markets: pharmaceutical, medical, life sciences and sports organizations.

There’s an obvious disconnect between health-conscious conventioneers and a city where most watering holes are harmful to heart and lungs and send customers away with an unmistakable stench.

Departing Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association CEO Don Welsh made it clear last year that the city’s lax smoking policy makes the ICVA’s job tougher. Ballard and the council can do Welsh’s successor and the city’s convention bookers a favor by removing that obstacle.

Even many bar owners would welcome a strengthening of the city’s loophole-ridden 2006 ordinance. They want to go smoke-free but are afraid to without a law compelling their competitors to do the same.

Leaving that up to the state is a game of chance. Ballard should eliminate the uncertainty—and a potential obstacle to his re-election bid—and finally stand up for the health and welfare of his constituents and the Indianapolis economy.•


To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.



  • Fraud and fools
    Secondhand smoke is quite possibly the biggest scam of all time. Anyone that could conceive that Joe Schmoe smoking over there is going to affect you over here, lacks a fundamental level ov sense. The 'data' is manipulated to achieve the desired outcome. Finally, bars in particular are devestated by loss of business. Stand up to the lies.
  • don't buy it
    If a majority wanted smoke-free bars, they'd already exist and be doing well. A small, but very vocal and well-funded minority wants to shove this down everyone's throats. Personally, I'd consider Indiana a place to visit because it doesn't treat smokers as lepers.
  • Get a Life
    Based on the list of people avoiding Indiana for their conventions are all very health conscience it would follow that they would also avoid bars regardless of their smoking policies.
  • Smoking ban in casinos
    If a ban on smoking makes sense from a health care cost stand point, how can any place be exempt? Casinos were established by changing gambling laws and owe there existence to the state's voters. Are it's workers and patrons not to be protected from harmful 2nd hand smoke? Show some consistency legislators, Who makes the laws anyway?

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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.