New smoking-ban plan would exempt casinos-WEB ONLY

Casinos would be the only public indoor places in Indiana where smokers could light up if a legislator can win passage of a statewide smoking-ban law.

Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary) wants to amend another one of his bills to include the ban on smoking in most public indoor places. He said today that he’s willing to carve out the casino exception as a compromise since gambling industry lobbyists are arguing that it would cause a big drop in business.

Other members of a joint House-Senate conference committee working on Brown’s bill said they would talk to fellow lawmakers to see whether there’s enough support to revive the ban, which passed the House but didn’t move through the Senate.

Any compromise would have to be approved by both the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-led Senate.

Brown said he’d rather have a smoking ban with an exemption for casinos than nothing at all.

“This whole process in the General Assembly is the friendly art of compromise,” said Brown, chairman of the House Public Health Committee.

But some nonsmoking advocates disagree. They worry that if lawmakers approve a weaker version of the bill now, the Legislature might not revisit the issue for years.

Patricia Ells, a lobbyist with the American Cancer Society, told lawmakers that exempting casinos would subject some workers to smoke while others had clean air in their workplaces. Indiana casinos employed more than 17,000 people last year, according to Indiana Gaming Commission figures.

“All employees deserve protection,” Ells said.

Lobbyists for casinos and bars have argued that the smoking ban would hurt their businesses and prohibit adults from using a legal product in their venues – which they say would cost jobs.

Numerous cities and counties across the state have ordinances with local smoking bans, but the rules vary, and many communities have no such regulations.

Brown suggested that the statewide law would not prohibit local governments from adopting more restrictive bans.

Sen. Vi Simpson (D-Bloomington) said people in her community supported the local smoking ban that includes bars and other public work places.

“Business is doing well,” she said.

Brown hopes to work out a compromise proposal before the legislative session ends April 29.

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