Chesterton Tribune

American Legion challenges statewide smoking ban

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) An American Legion post in northeastern Indiana is asking a federal judge to put a hold on a statewide smoking ban set to take effect Sunday.

Indianapolis attorney Scott Barnhart filed the lawsuit on behalf of American Legion Post 243 in Ligonier, 40 miles northwest of Fort Wayne, in U.S. District Court on Thursday. The lawsuit contends the smoking ban is too vague and violates the equal protection clause of the state and federal constitutions. It seeks a preliminary injunction preventing the state from enforcing the ban.

A telephone message seeking comment from the state attorney general's office was left Monday by The Associated Press.

Gov. Mitch Daniels signed Indiana's first statewide smoking restrictions in March after it narrowly cleared the state Senate after compromises expanding the number of exemptions were added. The law exempts Indiana's bars, casinos, retail tobacco shops and private clubs, such as American Legion posts.

But the new law also says facilities that permit smoking can't host events at which children will be present. The lawsuit says the post in Ligonier has about 20 children in the facility week and between 25 and 50 people are usually at the post a day.

The post recently spent $917 on an air-cleaning device and that it has "dramatically improved" the air quality in the building, the lawsuit says.

The post contends the law is too vague because it encourages arbitrary enforcement and because it fails to describe with "sufficient particularity" what an individual or entity must do to satisfy the law. The lawsuit says the law violates the equal protection clause because the post has been identified as a fraternal group and has been "irrationally singled out and is intentionally treated differently from gambling facilities." The lawsuit also contends the law violates the state's freedom of conscience provision, saying the law interferes with the post members' individual decision to smoke or not.

The lawsuit seeks attorneys' fees and costs and any other relief, as well as a permanent injunction against the law.


Posted 6/25/2012