INDIANAPOLIS | The leader of the Indiana Senate has declared the proposed statewide indoor smoking ban dead, despite recent efforts by a region lawmaker to salvage his proposal in the waning days of the legislative session.
"We're finished with the issue in the Senate this year, but we're open to considering that next year," said Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne.
House Bill 1018, which would have prohibited smoking in all indoor public places except bars, casinos, private clubs, tobacco shops and nursing homes, was defeated 8-1 in a Senate committee earlier this month. It was sponsored by state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary.
Some committee members said they preferred a comprehensive smoking ban with no exemptions, while others said state government shouldn't be dictating whether businesses can allow smoking.
Long, like Brown, said he was flabbergasted the American Cancer Society urged senators to vote against a smoking ban if it contained exemptions.
"The advocates have to understand that sometimes you've got to take a small step forward to achieve your ultimate goals," Long said. "That wasn't the case this year, and that doesn't work very well on this issue or any other issue."
"They had a pretty workable bill there that would have expanded nonsmoking in the state significantly," he said.
This was the first time in five tries that Long allowed a House-approved smoking ban to be heard by a Senate committee. Gov. Mitch Daniels said if the Senate approved the measure, he would sign the smoking ban into law.
Since the committee vote, Brown has been working behind the scenes trying to insert the smoking ban into other legislation moving through the General Assembly.
But Long said even if Brown is successful, the full Senate will not approve a smoking ban this year.
Long said he will permit a Senate committee hearing and vote on a smoking ban next year if one comes over from the House.
In the meantime, Long said he expects more Indiana communities will enact local indoor smoking bans.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indiana ranks fifth in the nation for percentage of adult smokers with 23.2 percent of Hoosiers lighting up.