Hoosiers will start breathing more easily today as a smoking ban in most public places and places of employment takes effect. But those in support of the measure say there's still work to be done.
“From a national perspective, it's one of the worst laws,” said Lindsay Grace, manager of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Indiana. “At minimum, we'd like to see bars and taverns covered in state law. Ultimately, we don't want any worker in Indiana working in a smoke-filled environment.”
Although there will be some health benefits from the ban, it leaves behind workers in bars and taverns, some of the smokiest places, Grace said.
The legislation prohibits smoking in public places, such as restaurants. But it still allows smoking in certain bars and taverns, casinos, off-track betting facilities, cigar bars, hookah bars and certain fraternal clubs.
Indiana lags behind other states that have already adopted smoke-free air measures, such as Ohio, Illinois, Nebraska and California, according to the American Lung Association.
Indiana State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin said the state's clean air act may not be as complete as other states, but it sets the baseline for every county and ZIP code in Indiana. He said the hope is that communities will be motivated to enact more restrictive bans.
State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, who has pushed for more stringent language in a statewide smoking ban, is interested in expanding the reach of the ban during the 2013 legislative session.
“A lot will depend on how many other local ordinances have been introduced, but I would like to go ahead and say: bars across the state, there will be no smoking,” he said.
He said several communities have moved forward on their own local ordinances regulating smoking in bars. Resistance comes from those who don't like change.
“And they don't look at this as a plus, saying that it's going to give me a healthier workforce and it will probably increase customers coming into my business,” Brown said.
Smoking costs Indiana $2.6 billion in productivity loss and $2.2 billion in health care costs each year, according to a study from Ball State University. The same study found 21.2 percent of Hoosiers smoke regularly.
Smoking, the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, results in about 9,700 Indiana deaths per year, according to Kerry Anne McGeary, director of the Global Health Institute at Ball State.
Quitting smoking can almost immediately bring a person's heart rate and blood pressure to normal levels. Within a few hours, the level of carbon monoxide in the blood starts to decline, and in several months, there are substantial improvements in lung function, according to the National Cancer Institute.
The smoking ban in effect as of today will reduce people's exposure to secondhand smoke, even in some outdoor areas. The law prohibits smoking from within 8 feet of entrances to public buildings.
Exposure to secondhand smoke, whether brief or prolonged, can harm a person's health, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at work or home have a 25 to 30 percent higher heart disease risk and 20 to 30 percent higher risk of lung cancer, according to the CDC.
Communities that have smoking bans show measurable drops in smoking-related health problems, such as upper respiratory infections and heart attacks, Larkin said.
He said it is important nonsmokers are not smoking unintentionally, by breathing secondhand smoke.
Cigarette smoke is laden with dozens of known carcinogens. It constricts blood vessels and can increase health problems, such as ear infections, in children, Larkin said.
Staff writer Dan Carden contributed to this report.