Bar owners will appeal ruling on smoking ban

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A group of bar owners say they plan to appeal a United States District Court ruling that upholds the City of Indianapolis' smoking ban.

Bar owners challenged the city's expanded smoking ban, which went into effect in 2012. Indianapolis' smoke-free ordinance includes bars, bowling alleys and hotel rooms. The court issued its ruling Wednesday.

On Thursday, attorney Mark Small said his clients knew they would have to appeal. "We're gonna take it as far as we can go, as far as we have to," he said, adding that he hoped it will go all the way to the US Supreme Court.

"People's liberties are at stake," said Small.

Small represents a group of bar owners who filed for a preliminary injunction last August to stop the enforcement of the ban while the case was being litigated in the federal district court in Indianapolis.

The bar owners said they've seen a 60-percent drop in business since the ban went into effect in June 2012. They've had to lay off staff or cut hours. Small says revenue brought in from pool tables, juke boxes, and dart boards is also down.

Small says his clients run "small, neighborhood taverns" that they've poured their life savings into, and that they're concerned the smoking ban is putting them out of business.

The bar owners' filing attacked the studies cited by the city to justify the ban. Those studies found that secondhand smoke is dangerous to bar employees. Small called it "junk science" and criticized the studies as flawed, although secondhand smoke has been classified as a cancer-causing agent by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US National Toxicology Program, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization.

Lawmakers passed Indiana's first statewide smoking ban in 2012, with exemptions for the state's gambling industry, tobacco stores, bars and taverns and private clubs such as the VFW. That leaves it up to cities to expand the ban, as Indianapolis did.

Small's clients will file their appeal with the US Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit in Chicago.