Smoking ban bill passes House

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana House voted Thursday night to approve the statewide smoking ban bill, setting up a vote today in the state Senate on whether the restrictions will be on their way to becoming law.

The House voted 60-33 in favor of the bill, despite opposition from health advocates who argue the proposal is too weak because it includes an exemption for bars and taverns.

Senate supporters of the bill were uncertain whether they had the votes to win passage for Indiana’s first statewide smoking restrictions.

Democratic Rep. Charlie Brown, of Gary, a sponsor of the bill, asked House members to send “a strong message” to the Senate in support of the measure, despite his reluctance to go along with the exemption for bars.

The Indiana Campaign for Smokefree Air and the American Cancer Society asked lawmakers to reject the bill.

“The legislature is making it impossible for health advocates and the general public to support a measure that has so many exemptions in it,” said Amanda Estridge, a cancer society lobbyist.

The House earlier in the session approved a ban on smoking in most public places and businesses that gave an 18-month exemption to bars, while the Senate passed a watered-down version last week that gave bars a complete exemption.

The compromise version negotiated this week that also exempts casinos, private clubs, tobacco stores and some in-home businesses, while it eliminates a Senate-approved provision prohibiting cities and counties from adopting tougher local restrictions.

Republican Rep. Eric Turner of Cicero, another sponsor of the bill, disagreed with health advocates on whether the bill should move forward.

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