INDIANAPOLIS —Though it’s weaker than what he wanted, a statewide public smoking ban is headed to the desk of Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is expected to sign it into law.
The state Senate approved the ban, which covers restaurants but excludes bars, on a 28-22 vote Friday. It came after the House green-lighted the ban Thursday night.
“It’s about the freedom of non-smokers to be able to go out to a place of business, and to eat a meal free of somebody else’s smoke. And it’s about the freedom of employees to work in a workplace that will not kill them,” said Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, D-Ellettsville.
“This bill will save lives. There are exemptions in it – I wish there weren’t. But we know it will save lives, and it will save families from the tragedy of disease and cancer.”
Fighting against the smoking ban was the sizeable bloc of social conservatives within the Senate Republican caucus.
Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, put it simply: “This is all about freedom.”
Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, said the measure goes too far. He complained of its effect on home-based businesses.
“If you are a homeowner and you have a home-based business and you are a smoker, you cannot hire outside employees – otherwise you are in violation of this law,” he said.
Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, echoed Delph.
“I don’t think this is a very well-written piece of legislation, just because I don’t think we’ve considered all the ramifications,” he said. “This is onerous in that it penalizes a lot of people for inadvertent smoking.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said he is afraid that approving the ban this year sends the message that “this is it.”
The measure would snuff out cigarettes in restaurants, nursing homes, hotels, bowling alleys and shop-room floors. It would also allow for stronger local ordinances, such as the one that Evansville recently approved.
However, in addition to bars, the list of places excluded from the ban includes cigar and hookah bars, fraternal organizations, casinos and in-home businesses.
It’s weaker than a House version that banned smoking in bars, but stronger than a Senate version that exempted bars and also prohibited local governments from approving bans stronger than the state’s.
Advocates that have pushed the ban, getting one approved by the House for seven consecutive years but the Senate for the first time just this year, were divided on whether it was better to pass a weak ban than none at all.
The Indiana Campaign for Smokefree Air, a coalition that has lobbied for the ban, announced its opposition to the watered-down version Friday, urging advocates to reject it.
“Hoosiers will be stuck with that law for at least five to seven years before lawmakers are willing to re-address the issue,” the group said in a statement. “We are very disappointed by those in the Senate who made a mockery of smokefree air and the legislation.”
Other advocates said the General Assembly should pass the compromise version.
“This is critical, as it means that progress toward a comprehensive smoke-free air policy can continue at the state and local levels.” said Indiana Hospital Association President Doug Leonard.