Chesterton Tribune

Local groups spread the word on new state antismoking rules

Back to Front Page
 

 

 
 

 

 

By JEFF SCHULTZ

Indiana officially goes smoke free next week but tobacco users are not the only ones who need to pay attention.

Business too must be in compliance with the ban which becomes state law on Sunday, July 1.

According to the statute known as the Smoke Free Air Law, businesses are required to place signs at all public entrances stating that smoking is prohibited within eight feet of an entrance. Businesses that are not exempt must place additional no smoking signs and remove ashtrays or other smoking receptacles.

It sounds easy, but what gets confusing are the differences between exempt and non-exempt businesses, areas where people can and cannot smoke, the number of signs to be posted and how this will affect the 42 Indiana cities, towns or counties that already have smoking bans in place.

Thats why groups like the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission (ATC), the Tobacco Education & Prevention Coalition for Porter County, and local Chambers of Commerce are working hard this week to inform businesses of the requirements.

Most public places fall under the smoking ban enacted by House Enrolled Act 1149. The list includes government and municipal buildings, schools, nursing homes, health care facilities, bowling alleys, theaters and most stores including liquor retailers.

Hotels and motels are also on the list but guests will still be able to smoke in designated rooms since guests rooms are not considered public locations.

Two or more signs reading "Smoking is Prohibited By State Law" must be placed inside a non-exempt establishment. In addition restaurants are required to post noticeable signs at their entrances reading "Smoking is Prohibited in This Restaurant."

The law says it is okay for people to smoke outside of a business and on outdoor patios, provided they are the correct distance away from the public entrance so smoke cannot enter the business.

Cpl. Travis Thickstun, public information officer for the Indiana ATC, in a press release said the law exempts "horse-racing facilities, riverboats, casinos, off-track betting facilities, cigar and hookah bars (use of cigarettes is prohibited), one designated smoking room in a private or fraternal club, retail tobacco stores, stand-alone bars and taverns, cigar manufacturing facilities, cigar specialty stores, and certain businesses located in private residences where all the employees also reside."

A business that matches exemption criteria and wants to allow smoking must complete a Smoking Ban Exemption Form found on the ATCs website, www.in.gov/atc, Thickstun said.

The site is a hub for additional information regarding the Smoke-Free Air Law with Frequently Asked Questions documents, information on signage requirements, and free signs for businesses.

While the state law prohibits smoking within eight feet of a public entrance, a city or town adopted ordinance already in place that is more restrictive can supersede the state law. Tobacco Education & Prevention Coalition for Porter County Program Coordinator Susan Gleason said this would mean businesses in Valparaiso would have to post signage for 15 feet instead of eight in accordance with the ban that the city issued in 2006.

"For Valpo, the ban would still be for 15 feet," Gleason said.

The Chesterton Town Council deliberated a ban similar to Valparaisos last year, but instead opted to enact a municipal ban prohibiting smoking only in buildings and vehicles owned by the town.

Chesterton Town Manager Bernie Doyle told the Tribune the council has not yet determined whether they will continue to enforce the 15-feet ban for municipal buildings or switch over to the states less restrictive ban of 8 feet. He said he would inform the council members about the matter.

"Thats something well have to bounce around," Doyle said.

The law says cities and counties can still pass stronger restrictions if they please.

Meanwhile, Gleason mentioned the state is notifying businesses by post card and directing them to the website www.breatheindiana.com where they can request for free signs and a free tool kit which includes decals, posters, fact sheets and free quitting resources for employees. The site has its own FAQ page, a link to the final version of HEA 1149 and information on enforcement.

A violation of the Smoke-Free Air Law can result in a Class B infraction and three or more violations would lead to a Class A infraction with up to a $10,000 penalty. Businesses are in charge of making sure their employees and customers abide by the Smoke-Free Air Law. The ATC will be the primary agency enforcing the law. Others include the Indiana State Department of Health, the county health department and any law enforcement officer.

Gleason said that the ATC website has free, downloadable signs that businesses can print and post. They may also print their own signs as long as they use the same or similar language.

Anyone with questions, Gleason said, can call the Tobacco Education & Prevention Coalition for Porter County at (219) 464-6823 or e-mail her at susan.gleason@valpo.edu.

Businesses in Duneland have been quiet on the new smoking ban and its requirements, according to Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Heather Ennis. She said she still will send an e-mail in the next few days reminding them of the requirements, but told the Tribune she has heard no complaints yet. If issues arise once the law goes into effect, then the Chamber would be willing to host a seminar. "We will continue to educate everyone on what it means for them," Ennis said.

Concerns may be addressed to the Chamber at 926-5513.

 

Posted 6/28/2012