Smoke-free leaders still believe smoking ban is possible despite vote

The city's smoke-free leaders said they still believe a ban is possible despite a committee's vote on the matter.

Indianapolis

The City-County Council Rules and Public Policy Committee voted down the smoking ban proposal Tuesday night. Wednesday, the city's smoke-free leaders said they still believe a ban is possible.

"We still want to pass the strongest law possible to protect very worker. We would ask that this law that's on the table get brought forth to the full council and we would like the council to act on this now.  If not, we're going to introduce something in January," said Lindsay Grace, spokesperson for Smoke Free Indy.

The smoking ban proposal, drafted by Republican council member Ryan Vaughn, would have banned smoking in about 300 city bars. About 60 establishments, including cigar and hookah bars and private clubs, would have been exempt.

Grace said there is some concern about public perception of Indianapolis during the Super Bowl. More than 150,000 people will come to the Circle City for the big event.

"We want to put our best foot forward and that's why Smoke Free Indy has been advocating a smoke free work place for our workers, but also for our visitors when they come here," she said.

Grace said when Indianapolis hosted the Big Ten Basketball Tournament last year, they got some negative feedback from visitors about bars allowing smoking.

"They were really surprised that you could still smoke in Indiana and in Indianapolis so we did get some bad media from that event where these visitors were shocked that you could still smoke in Indianapolis in public places," said Grace.

The Indianapolis Convention and Visitor's Association supported the proposed ban, out of health concerns for hospitality workers and concerns about the economic future of the city. Chris Gahl, with the ICVA said there are some large groups that won't book their conventions in Indianapolis because it's not smoke free.

"From a tourism and hospitality standpoint and for the business of promoting this city we will support a smoke free initiative going forward because we believe that's what's best," Gahl said.

There is a chance the full City-County Council could revisit the proposal Monday, Dec. 19. To do so, 15 council members would need to vote in favor of adding the proposal to the agenda. Even then, council members say, it's unlikely the proposal would have enough support to pass.

Democratic council member Angela Mansfield said she was surprised by what happened at Tuesday night's meeting. She said she was planning to vote yes, until an amendment was added allowing smoking rooms in private clubs that admit minors.

If the council does not take up the issue Monday, another similar proposal could be introduced in January. The soonest a ban could pass would be Jan. 23 and typically ordinances take 30 days to go into effect.
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