Johnson County officials repeal public smoking ordinance

Officials in a central Indiana county have repealed a local public smoking ordinance that was stricter than a statewide law the General Assembly approved earlier this year.

Commissioners in Johnson County, just south of Indianapolis, voted 3-0 this week to repeal the countywide restrictions, which had been slated to begin Jan. 5.

The ban would have prohibited smoking in all bars, restaurants, businesses, hotels, private clubs and outdoor areas of parks and fairgrounds. The ordinance faced little opposition when it was adopted by a 3-0 vote Nov. 5, Commissioner Troy DeHart said.

"I just don't think that anybody really paid attention to it," DeHart told The Indianapolis Star. "The opposition wasn't there."

But commissioners began to receive complaints shortly after the ban was adopted, prompting the second vote.

DeHart said he voted for the ban the first time around because of the adverse health effects of smoking and secondhand smoke. But, he said, the issue is one of personal choice.

"I felt like we really infringed upon what this country was founded on. It's not an issue of not smoking or smoking, it's a loss of freedom," he said. "I humbly said it more than once that I felt I made a mistake. I will stick to my guns. I made that mistake."

A state law, which took effect July 1, bans smoking inside public buildings and places of employment but has exceptions for bars and casinos. It also allows not-for-profit private clubs such as fraternal and veterans organizations to permit smoking, but only in a designated room with separate ventilation that is off limits to those younger than 18.

West said he doesn't believe the county needed to go beyond the state's smoking ban.

"Where you begin to legislate behavior, people are going to rebel against it. They're going to find ways around it. So, I think a lot of it comes back to personal decisions, personal rights," Commissioner Ron West told Indianapolis radio station WIBC-FM 93.1.

Franklin and Greenwood already have smoking laws, though the Greenwood ban is not as extensive.

Zach Kyle, owner of The Blind Pig bar in Greenwood, said commissioners made the right decision by repealing the ban.

"I think they're going to see that our businesses are going to do just fine," he said. "It was the right decision to leave small business owners alone."

West and DeHart both said commissioners may consider a less strict measure next year.

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