INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — For all the bluster a statewide smoking ban sparked at
the beginning of the 2012 legislative session, the version Indiana lawmakers
may end up approving seems little more than a wisp of smoke.
The Senate approved a statewide ban Wednesday for the first time in its
history, with 13 Democrats joining 16 Republicans for a 29-21 vote. But the
proposal passed hardly resembles the one the House has approved six times in
“The bill has so many exemptions it’s unacceptable,” said Amanda Estridge,
Indiana lobbyist for the American Cancer Society, which has opposed smoking
bans in the past for not covering enough businesses.
Senators added exemptions for bars, charity gambling operations, veterans’
homes and nursing homes. They also expanded exemptions the House had added
for private clubs, such as the VFW and American Legion, and the state’s
gambling industry, which would be protected statewide from local
By the end of the exercise, Senate supporters said the “horrible bill” was
the best they could do and will seek to salvage it in final negotiations
with House lawmakers.
Indiana’s legislative leaders have said they plan to end the 2012 session
March 9, which gives negotiators just over a week to come up with a
Senate Democratic Leader Vi Simpson, of Bloomington, said the proposed ban
was a health issue.
“When I’m around somebody who smokes, I have to breathe that air. ... It’s
shared air. And we know the effects of secondhand smoke,” she said.
But the additional exemptions secured critical support among senators who
had previously opposed a ban. Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort
Wayne, held himself out as the prime example, saying the exemption for bars
made him change his mind.
“For the first time, I’m going to support a smoking ban today,” he said.
Long said he felt strongly that people ought to be able to work in a
smoke-free environment but also wanted to see smoking allowed in bars. He
said that only adults are allowed to enter bars, and adults have a choice
about being exposed to smoke that children don’t.
Roughly two months ago, the ban appeared to have significant momentum. Gov.
Mitch Daniels included a statewide smoking ban in his final legislative
agenda, and Senate lawmakers said it was time for the issue to get a vote.
But with the ban in trouble, Gary Democratic Rep. Charlie Brown, who
co-authored the tougher House proposal with Cicero Republican Rep. Eric
Turner, said Daniels needs to begin lobbying for the measure.
“We’re going to have to rely heavily on the governor, the governor has got
to get more active in this thing, if in fact he has a keen interest in
public policy on smoke-free air,” Brown said shortly after the Senate voted.
Daniels’ has had an uncharacteristically light presence around the
Statehouse this session, often going weeks at a time without scheduling a
public appearance in Indianapolis. Instead, he’s been traveling around the
state and the nation. Earlier in his tenure, Daniels was more of a fixture,
especially when pushing major priorities, such as the leasing of the Indiana
Toll Road. A Daniels spokeswoman said he was happy the bill was one step
closer to reaching his desk for a signature, but did not answer questions
about the governor’s lobbying efforts.
As in previous years, arguments over exemptions have threatened to trip up
the measure. Several senators who testified before Wednesday’s vote said
they were no longer sure what the bill stood for because of rampant
Most opponents, such as Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, and Sen. Mike
Young, R-Indianapolis, argued that they philosophically oppose the
government telling them what they can do in their private life.