A Southern Indiana city has voted to ban smoking in all public places except bars and private clubs, and at least two other Indiana cities are working on similar proposals.
However, while he says he would support such a ban, the president of the Evansville City Council doesn’t think a smoking ban would pass the city council. “I have been approached by many people. I don’t like cigarette smoke,” said Steve Bagbey. “It’s something I would like to see the private sector address and right now I don’t see enough votes on council to get it done.”
Currently, Evansville has a ban on smoking in public buildings, a proposal Bagbey said he was “hammered” for, even though the measure eventually passed.
On Tuesday, the Columbus, Ind., City Council voted 6-1 to ban smoking in all public places in the city, except bars and private clubs. Business owners have 180 days to comply with the new law to give people time to adjust.
At the end of July, the Indianapolis City County Council passed Proposal 45, which establishes non-smoking areas throughout Marion County. The county council in South Bend, Ind., is considering an ordinance that would curtail smoking in public and private places and disallow employees from smoking in designated smoking rooms.
One Evansville restaurant owner said he doesn’t believe the government should be able to dictate what happens inside his restaurant. ”As a restaurateur I think its wrong,” said Larry “Bubbles” Pollack, owner of The Pub, who says smokers and non-smokers alike patronize his establishment. “I’m the one that has my money invested in this. And the taxpayers don’t and the people we elect don’t. When it’s my blood and sweat and pocket that runs this place I should be the one to decide what to do.”
Bagbey said one of the considerations of a smoking ban is the impact on local taxes. “I think the one thing the public better understand is not only is it a health concern,” he said. “If we eradicated tobacco, what is the government going to do for income?”
Indiana currently taxes cigarettes at 55 cents per pack. During the 2005 Indiana General Assembly session, lawmakers considered bumping that amount by as much as 40-cents per pack to balance the state budget. Next-door-neighbor Illinois would like to see smokers pay 75-cents more per pack, with the money earmarked to build more public schools and pave roads.
If passed, Illinois would have the fourth highest cigarette tax in the country and the second proposed by the state in three years. The increase would jump the Illinois tax from 98-cents to $1.73 a pack, an increase of 76 percent.