EDITORIAL: Pass the proposed city smoking ban and be done with it

A flawed but ultimately acceptable ordinance that would strengthen the city’s workplace smoking ban is now headed to the City-County Council. The council should pass the ordinance and Mayor Greg Ballard should sign it.

The ordinance passed by the council’s Rules and Public Policy Committee Jan. 17 heads to the full council Jan. 30. It would extend the city’s existing workplace smoking ban to include all businesses, but would exempt cigar and hookah bars, tobacco shops and private clubs whose members vote to allow smoking.

Smoke Free Indy, a broad coalition of organizations that supports the ban, estimates the ordinance would reduce from 370 to about 60 the number of establishments where indoor smoking is allowed. That’s a significant step toward safeguarding the health of workers and patrons who are now vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke.

An amendment to the ordinance that was approved in committee is the most objectionable part of the law being considered. It adds the downtown off-track-betting parlor to the list of exempt establishments. Unlike the other exempt businesses—whose reason for being revolves around smoking in some form—the OTB wouldn’t cease to exist if patrons had to step outside to smoke.

But thanks to persistent lobbying and Councilor Monroe Gray, the amendment was introduced and adopted, giving the OTB an unfair and unnecessary advantage over other downtown establishments that also serve food and drink.

This puts a dent in one benefit of the ordinance, which is to level the playing field for businesses by ensuring that all of them abide by the same smoking ban. The OTB is now positioned to operate under its own set of rules. Gray told IBJ he introduced the ordinance because the OTB is a one-of-a-kind business and that “guys like to have a cigar when cheering for their horse.”

Those are weak arguments, but an exemption for one business shouldn’t sink the entire ordinance.

This and other weaknesses can be addressed over time. For now, the best course is for the council to pass the ordinance and for the mayor to sign it lest Indianapolis slip even further behind the rest of the country in protecting the non-smoking majority from the minority who continue to light up.

Mentoring offers rewards

What’s often missing in the lives of at-risk central Indiana children? A meaningful relationship with an adult—the kind of relationship that can determine whether that child ultimately prospers or becomes a burden to society.

You can make that difference by becoming a mentor, a generous act that can take different forms. Interested in helping a low-income but academically capable high school student find his or her way to college? Check out Starfish Initiative. Want to set a younger child on the right course? Big Brothers/Big Sisters might be right for you.

Check out all your options by visiting abetterhour.org, the website of the Indiana Mentoring Partnership. Thousands of kids in our community need a positive role model in their lives. A little of your time can make a big difference in the life of a child.•


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