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Smoke-free bars in Indianapolis are just one OK away

April 18th, 2012 Posted in Tobacco news Buy cheap cigarettes online Tags:

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Indianapolis soon may have a much stricter smoking ban that would cover the city’s bars, bowling alleys and hotels.

The City-County Council voted 20-9 Monday night for a comprehensive smoking ban that would outlaw smoking in all but a few places. It’s the second time this year that the council has done so, but Mayor Greg Ballard vetoed the first ban passed by the council in January by a 19-9 vote.

Ballard will receive a copy of the ban later this week and will have 10 days to decide whether to sign it, said Marc Lotter, Ballard’s spokesman.

John Barth, a council Democrat who co-sponsored the ban, said he thinks Ballard will support it.

“All the signaling has been positive,” Barth said, “so if we got (anything) but support, it would be extremely surprising at this point.”

If the smoking ban wins the mayor’s approval this time, some of Indianapolis’ neighbors say they might follow suit and enact their own comprehensive bans.

“The very second I find out the mayor signed the bill,” Lawrence City Councilman David Parnell said, “I’ll introduce ours.”

Parnell said he has been waiting for Indianapolis to ban smoking in bars so he can propose a similar ordinance in Lawrence. He said he didn’t think it would be fair to Lawrence’s bars to ban smoking before Indianapolis did because it would draw business away from them and into Indianapolis.

Only a few of the city’s suburbs — Hancock County, Plainfield and Zionsville — ban smoking in nearly all areas.

Several areas, including Carmel, Westfield and Lawrence, ban smoking in some areas, such as public places and restaurants.

The state legislature passed a statewide ban earlier this year that bans smoking in restaurants and most public places and businesses, but it exempts bars, gaming facilities and nonprofit private clubs and fraternal organizations. That ban will take effect July 1.

Indianapolis’ ban is stronger than the state’s and would exempt only nonprofit private clubs — including fraternal organizations and veterans halls — retail tobacco shops, existing cigar and hookah bars, and the Downtown Indianapolis off-track betting parlor.

Indianapolis passed a ban in 2005 that is similar to the state’s, but it took the city several more years and proposals to get close to passing a more comprehensive ban.

Ballard vetoed the council’s previous smoking ban in February because it would have allowed private clubs to have smoking but said clubs that allowed smoking couldn’t be open to children.

The new version defers to the statewide ban that allows children in clubs with smoking as long as the children aren’t permitted in smoking areas.

Lotter said he thinks Ballard will look more favorably upon this version because of the changes made to the provisions that regulate private clubs and veterans halls.

“It’s good to see that we’re finally close,” Lotter said.

Lindsay Grace, chairwoman of Smoke Free Indy, said her group will encourage the mayor to sign it.

“It’s about health,” she said. “It’s about the best image for our city. This was the right decision tonight.”

Still, some are unhappy with the revised ban.

Council member Ryan Vaughn, a Republican, took issue with parts of the ban and asked to send it back to a committee, but the council voted against it. He was concerned about some of the language regarding private clubs, so Barth and his co-sponsors agreed to amend the ban before it passed.

Vaughn also was unhappy that the ban applies to e-cigarettes and that a provision that exempts hookah and cigar bars applies only to bars that were open by Jan. 1, 2012. He said he worried that if others opened after that date, they will have to be shut down. He had the same concern for private clubs, which had to meet certain criteria by April 1 to be exempted.

Still, he voted for the measure.

“I’ve been an advocate for it for three years, so I think 95 percent of it’s good,” Vaughn said.

Republican Councilwoman Virginia Cain voted against the measure because she said she thought the government should stay out of regulating smoking.

“I’ve always been a ‘no,’ ” she told the council before the vote.

Several bars have opposed the idea of a comprehensive ban throughout the years, but some of those bars are going smoke-free on their own.

The Slippery Noodle Inn made part of its bar smoke-free last year and went completely smoke-free at the beginning of 2012.

Owner Hal Yeagy, who is a smoker, said he wanted to go smoke-free because he had cleaned up the bar before the Super Bowl and didn’t want the film from the smoky air on his freshly painted walls. He said he also felt pressure from nearby businesses that wanted to host lunches and parties in a smoke-free environment.

Going smoke-free likely has helped business, Yeagy said, because a lot of people no longer tolerate smoking.

But Yeagy said he still won’t support smoking bans imposed by the government, including Indianapolis’.

“I don’t think the government should be telling me how to run my business,” he said. “Obviously, I went smoke-free, but I did it of my own accord. I didn’t want the government telling me that I had to do it.”

But the ban’s supporters have no intention of backing off.

Angela Mansfield, a council Democrat who co-sponsored the ban, said it could lead to a stricter ban that would include private clubs.

Private clubs compete with bars, so it’s only fair that they, too, should be included, she said. The council backed off the private clubs to get Ballard’s support, but she said she hopes it can go back and include them in the future.

Barth agreed, but he said he is happy with the current ban for now.

“There’s another day for another fight,” he said, “but for now, we’re doing the best thing for the city.”

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