It has been almost two years since smokers who patronize bars, taverns and private clubs in Howard County began stepping outside before lighting up.
The county-wide smoking ban, which was passed March 6, 2017, by both the Howard County commissioners and Kokomo Common Council, took effect July 1 that same year.
It was the culmination of a years-long local battle to place constraints on local smokers in public places. In 2014, the common council left exceptions in the city to allow for smoking to continue in certain locations. The 2017 legislation brought those outliers in line. Now, bars, taverns and social clubs are included in the ban. E-cigarettes also are included.
The city itself had been attempting to tackle this problem for more than a decade, with resistance from business owners where smoking was allowed. In the Statehouse, however, legislators have been more receptive to the arguments of bar, casino and club owners. Indiana is one of just 16 states that allows for designated indoor smoking areas in some establishments.
Sen. Randy Head, R-Logansport, is taking a new tack to reduce smoking among Hoosiers. The Republican’s Senate Bill 425 would raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.
“If we can stop young people from getting addicted, we lower the number of smokers, the smoking rate per capita here in the state of Indiana. We have healthier people and lower health care costs,” Head said Wednesday. “If we stop a child from becoming addicted or advert an adult from becoming addicted, we do a good thing. If we get them addicted, we’ve created smokers for life.”
We commend the senator for seeking to reduce smoking among young Hoosiers, but there’s unfinished business: Smokers still can light up in many indoor establishments.
The reasons for banning indoor public smoking should be self-evident today. And even if you aren’t too concerned about your own health, the lives of other patrons and those trying to earn a living in the many bars and private clubs should be worth preserving.
The Legislature must stop bowing to claims of businesses arguing a statewide smoking ban — a real one — will hurt them financially, just as it did in 2012, and amend the ordinance before raising the tobacco purchasing age.
It’s time for a statewide smoking ban in public buildings — without exception.