Smoke Free Indy advocates mount new campaign

December 8, 2008
Anti-smoking advocates are organizing a new attempt to strengthen Indianapolis' ban against smoking in the workplace. On Dec. 3, the Smoke Free Indy Coalition presented arguments to the City-County Council's Community Affairs Committee. They want to make the city's tobacco use law more comprehensive.

Indianapolis passed a smoke-free workplace law in 2005. The law, which took effect March 1, 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.

The Coalition wants to convince the council to extend the ban to all local firms. It also hopes to convince other Indiana cities and towns to enact similar bans. Tim Filler, one of the coalition's leaders, said it has new anti-smoking evidence to share that wasn't available in 2005. Leaders are particularly hopeful the council will consider an updated version of the U.S. Surgeon General's report on the impact of secondhand smoke that shows workers in the hospitality sector are the most exposed, and thus most vulnerable, to its effects.

"Nobody should have to choose between their health and a paycheck," Filler said.

Smoke Free Indy already anticipates business arguments against extending the ban. Although the U.S economy has moved into recession, the coalition has research its leaders say proves smoke-free workplace laws don't harm commerce. In fact, ban advocates say, such laws actually improve city economies, because workers gravitate to businesses and cities with clean air.

Coalition leaders including Filler; IBJ Corp. owner Michael Maurer, Indiana's former secretary of commerce; and Hetrick Communications Inc. CEO Bruce Hetrick were to address the council committee.

"If we are not a healthier state, employers are going to start going places where their health care costs are lower," Hetrick said. "I am convinced it is going to start costing us economically if we don't get this cleaned up and offer our visitors and residents alike a healthier environment."
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