July 04, 2012Beginning this past Sunday, you no longer have a choice between smoking and non-smoking. That age-old question of where you would like to sit will be put to bed.
By signing the legislation for a smoke-free Indiana in March, Gov. Mitch Daniels effectively cut public smoking out of the fabric of society.
Smoking now is prohibited in public places, places of employment and government buildings. It is a blanket ban that covers many highly frequented establishments, including offices and office buildings, restaurants, hotel and motel rooms, nursing homes, mental health facilities, bowling alleys, hospitals, retail stores, schools, auditoriums, theaters and concert halls.
Some establishments have already migrated toward a non-smoking policy, but those that haven't are starting to feel the heat.
A sign prohibiting persons younger than 21 from entering now greets patrons at the Marengo Tavern. “It’s going to affect our business because we’re going smoking, which means that we can’t have anybody under 21 here, and that’s gonna hurt our business,” Tony said. “On the other hand, if we had gone non-smoking, it was going to hurt our business.”
Debbie Woods, owner of the Blue River Café in Milltown, isn't pleased with the new law, though she admits she understands it.
She said she believes that the café will lose business because of the ban.
"They may come less or they may stay not as long, which will decrease our business," Woods said. "We've had no smoking in the dining rooms for some time now and people have been really receptive to that, but it's not really a place where there's a big hangout in the bar. It's often that people are dining and go into the bar to smoke a cigarette and then go back to their table."
Woods said that they are working on outdoor seating but that it will still deter some patrons who smoke because it is a weather-permitting situation.
"We're not as prepared as we should be," Woods admitted, though she said it is something they will comply with, including posting signs prohibiting smoking.
Signs must read "State Law Prohibits Smoking within 8 Feet of this Entrance" and are required to be posted at all public entrances of enclosed public places and places of employment.
The ban has left restaurant owners wanting some regulations that can help to keep smoking areas up and running.
"I kind of feel like we've taken care of the issue with the big smoke heater," Woods said. "It's for a room 10 times the size that it's in."
Places that will be exempt from the law include bars and taverns where patrons must be 21 or older, casinos, horse racing facilities, private clubs (though a majority of the club members must vote to allow smoking), cigar manufacturing facilities, hookah and cigar bars and businesses located in a private residence where all employees live.
Tony Main, co-owner of Marengo Tavern, said that he would support a regulation that would allow him to keep underage customers and smokers coming to his business.
"It's going to affect our business because we're going smoking, which means that we can't have anybody under 21 here, and that's gonna hurt our business," Main said. "On the other hand, if we had gone non-smoking, it was going to hurt our business. I don't know how it's going to weigh out yet."
Both Woods and Main agree that, as business owners, they should have the last say in what smoking policy their establishments have.
"If I go to a bar or someplace and there's something in there going on (that I don't like), I leave," Main said. "It should be like that for everyone else. As business owners, we should be allowed to have smoking or non-smoking."
The biggest demographic being hit by the smoking ban are restaurants, bars and taverns, but the ban covers all workplaces. Employees will no longer be able to smoke in break rooms or right outside of the door because of the eight-foot requirement.
While the new law is strict, the state believes that the push to crack down on public smoking could be more stringent and is urging local governments to pass ordinances that tighten the loop on smokers even further. Local ordinances can require that bars, taverns, casinos and private clubs become smoke-free facilities.
The ban will be enforced by a broad spectrum of officials, including the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, the Indiana Department of Health, local health departments, health and hospital corporations, the Division of Fire and Building safety within the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement officers.
Violations are a Class B infraction, and, after three violations, becomes a Class A infraction. Each offense is punishable by a $1,000 fine with a maximum amount of $10,000.