Indiana Senate panel votes down proposed smoking ban

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Indianapolis - A proposed statewide smoking ban for Indiana has been defeated in a state Senate committee, with several members saying they opposed the many exemptions it included.

The Senate Public Policy Committee voted 8-1 Wednesday against the bill that had exemptions for casinos, bars, fraternal clubs, smoke shops and nursing homes.

American Cancer Society opposed the proposed ban on the grounds that it would be one of the weakest in the country.

Committee Chairman Ron Alting of Lafayette didn't allow senators to consider removing any of the exemptions that were in the bill approved by the House. Alting said those exemptions were needed to win enough votes to pass.

Longtime ban supporter Rep. Charlie Brown of Gary said he was disappointed that smoking opponents pushed to have the bill defeated.

In January, the bill cleared the House by a 68-31 vote. In that version, casinos, bars, nursing homes and fraternal clubs can all create separate smoking areas.

"The American Cancer Society would like to make everything smoke free, but what our push is now, what we realistically think we can do, is asking bars and taverns to go smoke free," said Lucy Bruce-Whitaker, American Cancer Society.

About 200 protesters rallied at the Indiana Statehouse Tuesday pushing for just that.

They claim if the changes don't happen, people who choose to work in those places will not be protected.

"We would like for Indiana to come into the 21st century and pass a smoke free bill that includes bars and taverns. We really want to protect Hoosiers from second hand smoke. it's a known fact that restaurant servers are 50 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than the average population," Whitaker said. "We're not only saving lives, making more birthdays, we're saving money because those people are not going to be having to utilize treatment and detection."

Still, many bar and tavern owners say a smoking ban would hurt their business.