Indy Chamber of Commerce endorses smoking ban

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The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce is throwing its weight behind a tougher workplace smoking ban up for consideration Monday night by the City-County Council.

Support from the business group could help seal passage for the ordinance, which has divided the council. The measure would expand an existing smoking ban by prohibiting lighting up in bars, bowling alleys and nightclubs, along with nearby outdoor seating areas.

City-County Councilor Angela Mansfield, a Democrat, is co-sponsoring the proposal along with Republican Ben Hunter. Supporters say the ban is an obvious way to improve public health, while opponents argue business owners should decide for themselves whether to allow smoking.

Chamber President Roland Dorson said his group’s rationale for supporting the ban goes beyond public health, to economic development. People and businesses considering a move to Indianapolis consider quality-of-life matters, including smoking bans.

"One of the ingredients to creating a fantastic place is a demonstrated concern for public health," Dorson said.

Indianapolis first passed a smoke-free workplace ordinance in 2005. At the time, the Chamber received feedback for and against the proposal, Dorson said. This time, they’ve heard only from supporters.

"We’ll take a leadership role on this,"  he said. "It would be great if it passed in its current form."

The existing law, which took effect in March 2006, prohibits smoking in public workplaces, but has exceptions for bars, taverns, bowling alleys, private clubs with liquor licenses, and businesses that don’t allow patrons younger than 18.

An amendment to the new proposal would still allow smoking in cigar and hookah bars, but it would cap the number of licenses available for such establishments.

If the city votes to remove some of the exceptions, it would follow the lead of a couple of surrounding communities that have strengthened smoking ordinances in recent months. In May, Franklin passed one of the most restrictive bans in the state, covering all enclosed workplaces and public places, including bars. And, in September, the town of Westfield adopted a smoking ban that covers most public places, but excluded taverns that don’t allow patrons under 21.

To take IBJ’s unscientific poll on the smoking ban, click here.

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