Matthew Tully
February 25, 2003

The smoke wars began Monday night in the City-County Council, as a plan was introduced to ban smoking in every bar, restaurant and workplace in Marion County.

The council’s debate on the measure is expected to be among its most divisive this year. Critics and backers took sides Monday on the measure, offered by Southside Republican Beulah Coughenour. Many, however, said they weren’t ready to join the debate.

“I am open to and will be fairly responsive to what comes out of the public hearings,” said Democratic leader Rozelle Boyd. “I’ll probably be doing more listening than contributing.”

There will be plenty of listening to do. Members already have received e-mails and phone calls from those on both sides. For some, it’s a health matter; others think the government should stay out of private business affairs.

Rules Committee Chairman Bob Massie said the first hearing likely will be in April or May. The measure would put Indianapolis in line with California and cities such as Dallas and New York.

Under Coughenour’s proposal:

Smoking would be prohibited in “all enclosed public places” and “within places of employment.” That includes employee break rooms, restrooms and vehicles.

Smokers would not be able to light up within 25 feet of a business. That concerns some on the council, who say it would put sidewalks and other outdoor areas off-limits, leaving smokers few places to go Downtown.

Fines would range from $100 to $500 per day.

Hotels and motels would be allowed to reserve up to one-fourth of their rooms for smokers. Tobacco shops would not be affected.

The idea isn’t going over well at the Delaware News shop Downtown. Workers there don’t mind if customers smoke while browsing through the magazine racks.

“I’d be irritated,” employee Jennifer Apple said, preparing to light a cigarette Monday.

But a little annoyance is a price worth paying, argued Patrick Reynolds, head of the California-based Foundation for a Tobaccofree Earth.

“There’s an overwhelming body of scientific and medical evidence that proves secondhand smoke causes lung cancer and heart disease in nonsmokers,” he said. “Banning smoking 100 percent is an idea whose time has come.”

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