Councilors to introduce new smoking-ban proposal

Two City-County Councilors are prepared to take another stab at enacting a stronger public smoking ban in Indianapolis. And this time they think Mayor Greg Ballard will approve.

Ballard snuffed out the council's last attempt at a stronger ban when he vetoed the proposed ordinance Feb. 11.

The council on Jan. 30 voted 19-9 in favor of expanding the citywide ban to include bowling alleys, hotel rooms and most bars. Tobacco shops, hookah bars and over-18 private clubs would have been exempted. The bipartisan vote fell one short of being veto-proof.

Ballard, however, said he couldn’t support the proposal because it made private clubs and fraternal organizations, including military-veterans groups, choose between allowing smoking on their premises or allowing patrons younger than 18 to enter. The ordinance, he said, posed an unfair dilemma for not-for-profit groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which raises money through family-oriented and children’s events at VFW posts.

Councilors Angela Mansfield and John Barth, both Democrats, are set to introduce a new proposal next Monday that is almost exactly the same as the last measure except that it no longer bans smoking at existing private clubs. New private clubs, those founded after April 1, would have to go smoke-free.

Mansfield said the proposed ordinance would be introduced Monday, go to the rules committee April 3 and could be voted on by the full council by April 16.

The proposal should face smooth sailing thanks to the change, Mansfield predicted.

"Obviously, it got passed by the council last time," she said. "The mayor was the problem; he vetoed it."
Advocacy group Smokefree Indy, which endorsed the last proposal, also backs the new one.

“The health of our work force is paramount to the vibrancy of our community," Smokefree Indy Chairwoman Lindsay Grace said in a prepared statement. "Eliminating health risks such as secondhand smoke from workplaces such as bars, taverns and bowling alleys will improve the lives of thousands of workers."

Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter said the mayor's office was reviewing the plan.

"It definitely sounds on the surface of it, without having seen the language, like something that is closer to the mayor's position and very similar to the discussions we had in December and January," Lotter said.

The new city proposal is being supported by anti-smoking advocates, many of whom were dismayed by the state ban's exemption for bars and casinos.

"Eliminating health risks such as secondhand smoke from workplaces such as bars, taverns and bowling alleys will improve the lives of thousands of workers," said Lindsay Grace of Smoke Free Indy.

But some bar owners aren't giving up hope on halting an expansion of the city's restrictions.

"I think it's still a winnable fight," said Brad Klopfenstein, a spokesman for the Tavern League of Indiana. "It affects the neighborhood bars the most. The ones that are downtown and cater more to a business clientele or a tourist clientele, they're not going to be nearly as affected as the places farther out that see the same people (each night)."

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