House Approves Statewide Smoking Ban

Casinos, Nursing Homes, Clubs Exempt

The Indiana House approved a statewide smoking ban Monday, 6News' Norman Cox reported.

The Republican-led House voted 68 to 31. However, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, was in no mood to celebrate. Brown said it pains him that lawmakers insisted on adding so many exemptions to the bill, allowing smoking in bars, casinos, race tracks, private clubs and nursing homes.

Brown pledged to try to eliminate those exemptions when the bill goes to the GOP-controlled Senate.

"We have an obligation, with all the information, historical and whatever out there, about the damages done by smoking and then even more damage done by folk coming into contact with second-hand smoke," Brown said.

Other supporters said that even with the exemptions, the bill will still make Indiana a healthier place.

"I'm voting for Sam, my grandson, who has asked me to vote for the bill and for the children of Ms. White's first grade class at Smith Elementary School," said Republican Rep. Ralph Foley of Martinsville.

Supporters who packed the Statehouse Monday were delighted, but also wanted the Senate to take out those exemptions.

"We're thrilled about it," said one supporter. "We wish it could have been comprehensive, but we think it's a step in the right direction."

Proposed smoking bans have cleared the House several times only to stall in the Senate, but Senate President Pro Tem David Long said the bill will get a Senate committee hearing this year.

"That is an economic issue. We're having all kinds of competition coming in from other states now. Casinos argue and probably correctly that it could harm their bottom line," Long said.

Several House members said they don't agree with the vast exemptions in the bill and hoped the Senate would remove the loopholes.

Political analysts said the bill might have its best chance in years of passing.

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said he'd sign a statewide smoking ban into law if legislators approve it.