Council committee votes to recommend workplace smoking ban

A City-County Council committee tonight recommended 4-2 a proposal to ban smoking in almost all Marion County workplaces.

The ordinance, which was introduced to the council earlier this month and has gotten support from leaders of the city’s hospitals, would strengthen an existing law prohibiting smoking in most restaurants and public spaces such as hotel lobbies.

It would add to the prohibition currently exempted places such as bars, bowling alleys and private clubs. An amendment passed tonight reinstated an exemption for cigar and hookah bars, though licenses to operate those establishments would be capped.

The committee’s decision came after three hours of testimony that included doctors, bar owners and members of the public. Proponents of the bill argued for the need to protect the public health of all workers in the county, while opponents said it would harm local businesses and infringe on personal liberties.

“There’s absolutely no reason a non-smoker has to subject himself to the effects of tobacco smoke if he doesn’t choose to,” Councilwoman Christine Scales, a Republican, said, eliciting cheers from the crowd. “We’re talking about serious liberty interests at stake here. Where will the nanny state end?”

But others argued public health is the most important issue.

Dr. Nasser Hanna, an oncologist at Indiana University School of Medicine, pointed to the effects of secondhand smoke, saying about 30 percent cq of his lung cancer patients never have smoked.

“I’m going to represent a group of people who cannot represent themselves,” Hanna said. “I represent the people who have died and are suffering from secondhand smoke and lung cancer.”

source: www.indystar.com

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