Proposed Smoking Ban has Local Bar Fuming

By Rachel Martin

January 31, 2012 Updated Jan 31, 2012 at 12:26 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – A state-wide smoking ban proposed by the Indiana House has a local bar owner fuming about added restrictions and exceptions.

A bill to ban smoking in the state of Indiana still lingers in the Indiana House Monday night. Lawmakers want to expand the 2005 smoking ban to include no smoking in public places, enclosed areas of a place of employment, like corporate offices, in certain state vehicles, and within 12 ft. of a public entrance or enclosed area of a place of employment. But, among the added restrictions are a few exceptions that Pat Anderson, owner of Rack and Helen’s Bar & Grill in New Haven, fuming.

The new Indiana House bill on smoking virtually wants to ban smoking in all public places, and it would give bar owners 18 months to comply. But, the issue Anderson has, is the bill won't ban smoking in places where children are allowed, but in places specifically established for adults. Rack and Helen's is a 21 and over smoking establishment. He says the smoking ban in Fort Wayne has contributed to his business in New Haven, and a state-wide ban could change all that.

Anderson says the ordinance in New Haven calls for no smoking in any publically funded place, such as grocery stores and schools. He says the only places one can smoke are in 21 and over establishments or businesses that post they allow smoking.

The proposed smoking ban will make exceptions for places like casinos, private clubs, and non-profit fraternal, social, and veterans clubs. Anderson says that could be a serious problem because babies and children are allowed inside those places. He says it could affect children the most, because in most cases, they cannot choose where to go.

“You can carry an infant in a car seat into a club. That infant has no choice, he's gone with mom and dad into a place where they smoke,” he said. “I would be embarrassed, as a tax-paying citizen of the state of Indiana, if they pass a bill where a child doesn't have a choice, but at a 21 and over you can't smoke.”

Anderson says with current local smoking ordinances, people can choose if they want to go to a smoking establishment or not. Anderson says the proposed bill would take away people’s right to choose.

“It’s not so much that they want to take smoking away, it’s the choice,” Anderson said. “It’s just one more thing. We’ve got the Legislature telling us how to live our life. They need to concentrate on the main issues, getting our kids educated, safety, roads. Lay off of the small businesses. We need no more regulations.”

If lawmakers want to make exceptions, Anderson believes 21 and over establishments should be included. Anderson says either that, or have no exceptions at all. Tobacco stores, and cigar and hookah bars are also exceptions. He thinks local governments and bar/tavern owners should handle this matter, like they have been, and not the state.

“At least invite the tavern owners in for a discussion and get our views. The problem is, I don’t think they care,” he said. “But, we made the investment, let us make the decision.”

As of Monday night, House Representatives did not pass the proposed smoking ban. Representatives say they want to make the best compromises before making a final decision. They say they anticipate approval of the bill Thursday. From there it will move onto the Senate for approval. However, smoking bills have a history of “dying” in the Indiana Senate in the past.

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