Indianapolis Mayor Ballard signs tougher smoking ban

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Just days after the Indianapolis City-County Council passed a stronger smoking ban by a 20-9 vote, Mayor Greg Ballard has signed it into law.

The mayor posted the update to his Twitter account Thursday evening.

The newly-approved ordinance bans smoking in most bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, and hotel rooms in the city. But it leaves some places exempt, like cigar and hookah bars and private clubs, including veterans' halls and other non-profit organizations.

Smoke-Free Indy statement:

"The signing of Proposal 136 into law is the culmination of more than a decade of work. As a coalition of health organizations and health supporters, we have worked with dozens of city-council councilors and several mayors to get to this point.
Seven years ago, the workers and citizens of Marion County scored their first victory when smoking was taken out of our restaurants. Since then, public perception and public expectations about smoke free workplaces has continued to grow. In fact, as of last fall, approximately 70 percent of Marion County voters wanted a more comprehensive smoke free law that would include bars and taverns.

Today, workers in our bars and taverns, bowling alleys, hotels and motels can celebrate. They no longer have to go to work in smoke-filled environments. For that, we specifically thank the current members of the city-county council who put forth a bi-partisan effort to get this done. We also thank Mayor Ballard for putting his signature on this ordinance and affirming his commitment to public health. "
 
Original story that followed the council vote Monday:

"We've talked and we've listened. We've studied and we've compromised. Now, we've taken action to protect our residents and workers and make our city more attractive to business and tourists," said Council President Maggie Lewis.

The mayor snuffed out the council's last attempt at a stronger ban with a veto in February 2012. Since then, two council members have re-drafted the proposal to the mayor's liking.

"I am pleased we have passed a common-sense proposal that will expand protections and better promote public health. I urge the mayor to sign this proposal right away," said at-large Councilor John Barth, who co-authored the proposal. Eyewitness News spoke to Barth earlier this week.

Ballard said the previous proposal made private clubs and fraternal organizations, including military veterans' groups, choose between allowing smoking on their premises or allowing patrons younger than 18 to enter. Ballard argued it also posed an unfair dilemma for not-for-profit groups.

Although the Old Pointe Tavern on Massachusetts Avenue is already smoke-free, employee Roxanne Estela still wants the council to move forward with a stronger public smoking ban.

"We just went non-smoking a couple of weeks ago and I think that it has increased our business," Estela said. "People come in who would not for lunch because it was smoking."

As workers prepared for crowds at the Chatterbox Monday, owner David Andrichik told us the smoking ban evens the score for competition. It's smoke-free already, and Andrichik welcomes the change in law.

"We will abide by the law, certainly. We will be on the same level playing field as everybody else," said Andrichik.

One of Indianapolis' oldest establishments is also smoke-free.

"I got a lot of good, positive comments about it. But we got our own patio outside where you can step outside and smoke," said Hal Yeagy, the Slippery Noodle.

Yeagy banned smoking as a business move at the beginning of 2012 even without a city mandate. Legislation or no legislation, he accommodates every customer.

"I'm excited about it and I'm going to be sad if it gets vetoed," said Kristin Nesbitt of Indianapolis on Monday night. "I love my friends, but they are giving me cancer as we speak."

The Mass Ave Pub will go smoke-free in June.  It's a shift in thinking and will take some getting used to for smokers.   

"I'll probably smoke less cigarettes and it will probably be better for me in the long run," said Candace Cummings while visiting the Mass Ave Pub Monday. "But it's almost just annoying that the fact that, you know, sometimes you just want to go to the bar and hang out and smoke some cigarettes, and it's a little bit frustrating."

Many bars in the downtown area that already went smoke-free have seen business pick up. For the rest of the city, the decision is no longer a choice.