Chesterton Tribune

Tough new Indianapolis smoking ban takes effect Friday

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Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A new smoking ban takes effect Friday in Indianapolis, leaving South Bend as the largest among a dwindling number of Indiana cities that still allow restaurant and bar patrons to light up during a meal or a drink.

That distinction also could be changing soon.

The Indianapolis ordinance will cover bars and taverns, bowling alleys and most other workplaces and public spaces while exempting tobacco shops, hooka bars and private clubs that vote to allow people to light up.

It will bring the state’s capital and largest city in line with Fort Wayne, Evansville, Bloomington, Delaware County (Muncie), Elkhart, West Lafayette and other communities in protecting workers from the secondhand smoke of others.

A similar ordinance takes effect in Terre Haute in July, when a weaker statewide ban also becomes law.

“I’m hoping it will be a ripple effect across the state,” said Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, and one of the top promoters of a statewide smoking ban.

St. Joseph County, which includes South Bend, has had an ordinance in place for six years that allows smoking in bars and in separate rooms of restaurants, exposing servers, bartenders and employees to secondhand smoke, tobacco opponents say.

“This is about providing equal, fair and safe working conditions for all Hoosiers. Just because you happen to work in a bar should not put you in a health hazard that I’m protected from,” said Jill Sabo, tobacco-free coordinator for St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, the lead agency for Tobacco Free St. Joseph County.

Sabo said she’s drafting a more comprehensive anti-smoking ordinance to be presented soon to the South Bend Common Council. The draft banning smoking in bars and restaurants has the support of at least four of the council’s nine members and Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Mayoral spokeswoman Debra Johnson would not confirm Buttigieg’s support for a tougher smoking ban.

The state’s own less strict smoking ban is due to take effect July 1.

The Indianapolis ordinance, spurred by the city hosting the Super Bowl in February, expands the current smoking ban, which permits smoking in bars and restaurants that do not admit children under age 18.

That 2005 law prompted neighboring cities including Carmel, Greenwood and Lawrence to put in place similar bans, said Lindsay Grace, who chairs Smoke Free Indy.

“Indianapolis kind of set the standard for other communities,” Grace said. Already, the city of Lawrence, an enclave within Indianapolis where the new ordinance does not apply, will take up a tougher ban next month.

She noted the first statewide ban wasn’t approved until seven years after Indianapolis acted.

“It’s nearly impossible to get a good statewide law without having good local ordinances in place,” Grace said.

The state ban exempts bars, casinos, retail tobacco shops and private clubs.

Dr. Gregory Larkin, Indiana’s health commissioner, said the state ban sets a minimal standard across the state for protecting people from secondhand smoke.

“It wouldn’t be surprising to me that more communities will take what the state has done and make their own community ban a bit tighter,” Larkin said.

He endorsed the new Indianapolis ban and hopes other communities will follow suit. “It’s one of those things that there’s a direct cause and effect. If you put effective policies in place, the results are very clear about the number of avoidable heart attacks, lung disease and other issues,” Larkin said.

Others, however, aren’t happy with the Indianapolis ordinance. Bar patron Bobby Ray Long has filed a federal lawsuit challenging it, arguing the ban violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. He’s asked a judge to issue a restraining order blocking the ordinance.

He acknowledges it’s a long shot.

“I’ve just got my fingers crossed,” Long said Wednesday. He’ll continue to patronize his favorite haunts, taking smoking breaks outside “because I’ve got friends there. I’d much rather be inside."



Posted 6/1/2012