Statewide smoking ban passes House

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Even if Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard follows through on a threat to veto the tougher citywide smoking ban City-County Council members passed Monday, a similar measure making its way through the General Assembly would prohibit lighting up in most public places statewide.

State representatives voted 61-34 Tuesday to pass House Bill 1149, sending the legislation to the opposite chamber—where Senate President Pro Tem David Long has promised full debate.

The House has approved a statewide smoking ban at least five times in recent years, but those measures died before a Senate vote.

Like the city’s Proposal 18, the state legislation includes a provision that would require private clubs and fraternal organizations in Indiana to choose between allowing smoking on the premises or allowing patrons younger than 18 to enter.

Republican sponsor Rep. Eric Turner of Cicero said he is hopeful the bill has legs, given Long’s pledge to discuss the issue.

“We think we’ve found a sweet spot that minimizes the number of exemptions and maximizes the outcome,” Turner said.

House members added a provision that would delay the ban from taking effect in bars for 18 months; they also approved exemptions for casinos, cigar and hookah bars and retail tobacco stores.

But the bill is a tough one for not-for-profit organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which raises considerable amounts of money every year through family-oriented and children’s events, said Terry Bruning, state adjutant for the VFW, which has more than 100 posts within 100 miles of Indianapolis.

Each post throughout the state would be affected to a different degree, he said, making it difficult to predict the statewide financial impact. Many—but not all—VFW halls offer weekly $5-per-plate dinners that draw families, for example.

“At one post, it’s going to alter what they do every week,” Bruning said. “At another post, the impact may only be 10 events throughout the year.”

Turner said he thinks the legislation is reasonable and that each organization’s members should vote on which path to take.

“They just really have to decide whether they’re going to be a smoking facility or a facility that allows children,” he said. “They can’t be both.”

Lynne Arrowsmith, tobacco-cessation specialist for the Marion County Health Department, said making the choice is necessary from a health standpoint.

“Mixing children and smoking areas really is not a good idea,” Arrowsmith said. “In a choice between protecting children’s health and the members needing to go outside to smoke, we will always come down on the side of protecting the children’s health.”

Although each post is autonomous, Bruning said his guess is that most will choose kids over cigarettes.

“We’re doing the right things for the right reasons and we’ll continue doing so, only not while smoking a cigarette,” he said.

Indianapolis’ existing smoking ban forced Larry Griggers, owner of two local Ruth’s Chris Steakhouses, to make the same decision in 2006. He said his business was adversely affected when he chose to continue allowing children into his restaurants.

“I took a big hit on the business,” said Griggers, who supports a statewide smoking ban without any exemptions. “Smokers could go down the street to a competing restaurant that didn’t allow minors.”

Arrowsmith, who works with businesses in Marion County to implement no-smoking policies, said she thinks that private clubs could actually increase their membership by banning smoking.

“The younger group of veterans would like to bring their families to be included in activities,” she said. “[Allowing smoking] is a limiting factor because most people know the risks.”


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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