Smoking-ban backers, opponents vow to keep battling

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Supporters of a stricter ban on smoking in Indianapolis workplaces said the City-County Council’s decision Monday night to table the proposal will not kill efforts to get legislation passed.

Ben Hunter, a Republican council member who co-sponsored the bill with Democrat Angie Mansfield, said he hopes Indiana lawmakers will pass a statewide ban.

“We’ve at least raised the debate,” Hunter said. “Hopefully, [state legislators] will champion the cause.”

If not, Hunter said he still believes the local proposal will find new life and ultimately pass. He expects another vote on the proposal to occur sometime early next year.

“[Opponents] don’t have the votes to kill it,” Hunter said. “We do have the votes. It’s just a matter of tweaking” the measure.

The proposal fell short of the 15 votes needed to pass, with the final tally 13-12 against the ban. Council members then decided in a 14-13 vote to table the legislation, which means it can return to the council agenda at future meetings.

The proposed ordinance would have prohibited patrons from lighting up in bars, bowling alleys and nightclubs. It would have broadened an existing law that prohibits smoking in most public places, including restaurants that serve minors.

“It’s unfortunate the council wasn’t able to get it passed and make all Indianapolis workers a lot healthier,” said Melissa Lewis, chairwoman of the advocacy group Smoke Free Indy. “Luckily, the council will get another chance to bring Indianapolis forward with the rest of the country.”

Meanwhile, opponents of the ordinance say they are not backing down.

“If anything is a threat to Indianapolis business, you can expect Indianapolis business owners to fight it,” said Brad Klopfenstein, leader of a coalition called Save Indianapolis Bars. “We don’t expect it to go away.”

The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce gave its support to the proposal before Monday night’s vote, saying its passage could help economic development efforts. Chamber President Roland Dorson said he is disappointed but not defeated by the council’s decision.

“We recognize this is part of the process,” Dorson said. “This is how public policy works. Our hope is all the advocates continue to stay with it. We intend to.”

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