MacKenzi Klemann and Andrew Christman, Wabash Plain Dealer
NORTH MANCHESTER — New tobacco restrictions will take effect here this month, banning tobacco use in private bars, clubs and within 15 feet of main entrances to public facilities. But public reaction has been fairly muted since the North Manchester Town Council unanimously adopted the measure in August.
Town Council member Jim Smith says the new restrictions “closed some holes” in the state’s smoke-free air law, which does not include private bars or e-cigarette use, both included in the North Manchester ordinance.
“I think that the research is clear about the detrimental effects of secondhand smoke,” Smith said. “There were a few pockets in North Manchester, places where smoking was still there.
“And besides that fact, this ordinance also drives secondhand smoke further from main entrances (to 15 feet, rather than the state’s required eight feet) and it covers vaping.”
The council was informally approached by the Wabash County Tobacco Free Coalition with the idea earlier this year. Executive Director Dan Gray hopes he can persuade the Wabash City Council to adopt a similar ordinance. But council members have not committed one way or another to the idea of passing such an ordinance in Wabash. Gray’s ultimate goal is to have the entire county go smoke-free.
The Inn was the only one bar in North Manchester that still allowed smoking indoors when the restrictions took effect. It is not immediately clear whether the change will negatively affect business, but other bars in the area have already gone smoke-free by choice.
Other businesses, such as the Main View Inn, say they have not heard complaints about the new restrictions. Owner Karen Fawcett says the restaurant eliminated smoking indoors some time ago, at first allowing patrons to smoke in the patio area, but that option was late eliminated too.
The restrictions also affect patrons and employees at the North Manchester American Legion post, which did not allow smoking inside its facility but did allow tobacco use within the outdoor patio area. Now, Post Commander David Burnette says patrons will have to smoke in the parking lot in order to comply with the 15 foot rule.
“We’re still trying to get used to it,” he said. “We’re only a few days into it, so I don’t know how it will affect us later.”
Burnette says that while he does not smoke, he does not believe local government should restrict a smoker’s ability to do so outdoors.
But Smith says he has not heard much feedback since the council began considering the ordinance was adopted in August. Before that, Smith says the reaction was mostly positive.
“I had a lot of positive feedback that it should be in place,” he said. “There are always detractors, always people that feel like you’re stepping on people’s rights … and it doesn’t make any difference what you do, there will always be people who are for it or against it.”