Lawmakers explore expanding smoking ban

This summer an Indiana General Assembly interim study committee will examine policies regarding smoking bans, and other tobacco-related matters impacting Hoosiers' health.

By Mary Kuhlman

Indiana's public smoking ban has been on the books for three years, and this summer legislators will explore the law's benefits to determine whether it can be expanded.

When the law was passed, it exempted certain bars, taverns, private clubs and casinos. Brianna Herndon, Indiana government relations director with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, says the law has been a step in the right direction - but it created some winners and losers.

"There are some people that have the capability of going to work every day and not having to worry about the health risks that are associated with the secondhand smoke that they're exposed to," she says. "Then, there are other workers that don't have that same luxury, and have to choose between their health and a paycheck."

There are concerns that expanding the ban would take a financial toll on the state's gambling industry. Opponents also point out that individuals can choose not to work in places where smoking is allowed.

The Interim Study Committee on Public Policy will also examine the financial impacts of a cigarette tax increase, e-cigarette taxation and possible funding sources for tobacco use prevention and cessation programs.

The EPA has classified secondhand smoke as a cause of cancer, and Herndon hopes legislators understand how reducing exposure to it can improve public health.

"It's going to be an opportunity for a robust discussion around our current statewide smoke-free air law," she says. "If there is room, and the willingness among General Assembly, the lives of all Hoosiers could be improved by making all workplaces across the state smoke-free."

According to Indiana's Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission, more than 1,400 Hoosiers die prematurely from exposure to secondhand smoke each year.


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