By Timothy Cox
The Statehouse File
Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, urged senators on Friday to vote for a bill to ban smoking in most Indiana workplaces. She had hoped for legislation that would include no exemptions but the compromise she offered excludes bars, private clubs, casinos and some home-based businesses. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, The Statehouse File.
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana will become the 38th state to prohibit smoking in most workplaces if Gov. Mitch Daniels signs into law an exemption-packed bill narrowly passed Friday by the Senate.
The bill excludes bars, private clubs, casinos and some home-based businesses from the ban, which would go into effect July 1.
The final legislation passed the House 60-33 Thursday and the Senate 28-22 Friday. It’s a compromise between the stricter ban originally crafted by the House and one full of exemptions that the Senate originally passed.
The bill “is an incredible balance, and we worked very hard to get there,” said its author, Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield. “I can’t think of anything more important than legislation that’s going to protect the health and perhaps the lives of hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers.”
It was Gard’s final bill before she retires and caps seven years of efforts from anti-smoking groups to put a statewide ban in place.
But the final legislation was a bittersweet win for supporters and a frustrating loss for those who argued that the bill restricts the freedom of individuals and businesses.
“We have a terrible infringement upon the rights of individuals who own property in Indiana, and I think Indiana is still a part of the United States and still governed by the constitution,” said Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg.
Amanda Estridge, the Indiana policy director for the American Cancer Society, watched through a window between the Senate chamber and the Statehouse hallway as lawmakers debated a statewide smoking ban bill. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, The Statehouse File.
She was among 13 senators who went to the microphone Friday in the Senate in a long debate about the bill.
Opponents said the language was vague and the exemptions confusing. Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, complained about the signs that restaurants and other retailers would have to hang to let patrons know they couldn’t smoke inside.
Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, criticized the legislation for requiring all smoke-free businesses to prevent cigarette smoke within eight feet of their entrances. He said smokers walking on a sidewalk near a smoke-free business could be cited for violating state laws, Boots argued.
“The idea behind this was to get people to stop smoking in public places,” Boots said. “It penalizes a lot of people for inadvertent smoking walking down the street.”
And Sens. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, and Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, complained that the bill inclusion of home-based businesses that hire outside employees could mean business owners couldn’t smoke in their own kitchens, an accusation supporters denied.
Those supporters, meanwhile, acknowledged the bill was far from one they had hoped to be approving. Lawmakers who had worked for years for a smoking ban said no one should be exempted.
But several said they were willing to accept what they considered a flawed bill to get something passed.
Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, D-Ellettsville, asked her colleagues to support the bill.
Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, questioned Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, during a debate Friday about a smoking ban bill. The bill passed and now moves to the governor to sign into law. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, The Statehouse File.
“It’s about the freedom of employees to work in a workplace that will not kill them,” Simpson said. “They’re waiting for us to protect their freedoms. That’s our job today.”
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar released a statement regarding the smoking ban and other legislation.
“Indiana will now protect 95% of Hoosiers while at work and also allow citizens to eat at a restaurant without having to encounter cigarette or cigar smoke. That is a huge positive development and legislators should be commended for coming together and taking that important step at this time,” Brinegar said.
With Daniels’ signature, all smoke-free businesses will be required to display two signs for passersby. The first sign states that it is illegal to smoke within eight feet of the door, and the second states the business prohibits smoking inside the premises.
Timothy Cox is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.