The Kokomo City Council has given initial approval to a proposed ban on smoking in the city's bars and social clubs.
The council voted 5-4 Monday night to advance the proposal after nearly 50 people protested against the ban outside City Hall and more than 20 opponents and supporters spoke during the meeting, the Kokomo Tribune reported.
Councilman Mike Wyant argued that because many people entering bars come there to smoke, it should still be allowed in those establishments in the city about 40 miles north of Indianapolis.
"We talk jobs and want to keep jobs in this community," he said. "If this passes, you'll see some of these little bars and their owners that built these bars up — you'll see them close, and that's a shame. I don't think I have the right to tell them that they can't smoke in there."
The statewide smoking ban law approved by the General Assembly in 2012 exempts bars, casinos, retail tobacco shops and private clubs, such as veterans and fraternal organizations. Indianapolis and Fort Wayne are among several cities that have adopted local ordinances that prohibit smoking inside bars, while the South Bend City Council rejected such a ban in July.
Kokomo Councilman Bob Hayes said during Monday's meeting that a 2006 city ordinance to ban smoking inside restaurants drew similar complaints as the bar owners are now making.
"We heard doom and gloom then, and those restaurants are still alive," he said. "I think that these taverns and bars will stay alive because (patrons) want the social aspect. Nobody in this room is telling you that you can't smoke."
The Kokomo proposal would also prohibit the use of E-cigarettes in all enclosed public establishments.
The council could give final approval to the proposed ordinance on Sept. 8.