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Smoking Ban Butchered By Senate

Last updated on Wednesday, February 29, 2012

(INDIANAPOLIS)(RTV6) - The author of a bill to ban smoking in public buildings said the Indiana Senate butchered his bill Tuesday.

Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, is angry that senators voted to permit more businesses to continue to allow smoking.

Anti-smoking advocates were unhappy that the bill passed by the House continued to exempt many places from a smoking ban, but the Senate voted Tuesday to exempt even more by allowing smoking in bars.

The language in the bill senators took up exempted gambling facilities, cigar and hookah bars, tobacco shops and private clubs and gave bars a temporary exemption for 18 months.

But the Senate greatly expanded the exemptions by voting to allow smoking in the state's approximately 1,500 bars on a permanent basis.

"As I look at this, I say it's just another erosion, continued erosion of our rights," said Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg. "If you look at New York City, they're banning trans-fats. What's next in Indiana? What will we be talking about five years from now in Indiana? What other unhealthy behavior?"

Brown, who has sponsored the anti-smoking bill for years, was fuming about the Senate action, saying it defies logic.

"Their arguments are very shallow about these property rights," Brown said. "No one deals with the fact that people who work there deserve not to have to be encountering second-hand smoke."

One senator said that customers who don't like smoking can see the sign on the door of a bar and go somewhere else, and he said employees who don't like it can go find a job somewhere else.

Brown asked just where are the jobs that those employees are supposed to go find.

The Senate also voted to loosen the exemption for private clubs by allowing them to continue having smoking while allowing minors in non-smoking areas.

The Senate will cast its final vote on the bill Wednesday.

Despite what he sees as weakening of the measure, Brown still wants it to pass. He said he hopes to take it to a House-Senate conference committee and restore it to a form more to his liking.

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