A bill proposing a ban on smoking in public places was heard by an Indiana Senate committee for the first time Wednesday.
The bill bans smoking in public places, including enclosed workplaces and within 12 feet of the entrance to any public place. Bill author Charlie Brown of Gary, said there is no constitutional right to smoke and instituting a smoking ban would save the state and employers money.
“The overall cost,” he said, “of health care and premature loss of life attributed to secondhand smoke for Indiana residents was estimated to be $390.3 million in 2006.”
But the House earlier approved exceptions to the bill. Casinos, nursing homes and fraternal clubs would not have to comply with the ban. Bars that require patrons to be 21 years old to enter would also be exempt.
Indiana Licensed Beverage Association Vice President Jeff Viars does not support a comprehensive ban and said the exemptions in the bill are unfair to small businesses like his.
“Well,” he said, “we’re going to take it away from the bars and taverns and we’re going to leave it with their main competition, which is the Moose, the Elks, the Eagles, the veterans clubs. And I have no problem with them, but how can you take it away from me when I pay state and federal taxes, help support the state, and they don’t have to?”
The committee will hear amendments and vote next week.