The Indiana House and Senate versions of a “comprehensive” public smoking ban are so different that it might be difficult for a compromise to be reached in conference committee.
The House version takes a strong stand, offering a ban with few exceptions – casinos, cigar bars, private clubs. It is supported, if not enthusiastically, by anti-smoking groups.
The Senate versions adds so many more exceptions that it's hardly worth having the ban – bars and taverns, even private clubs that allow children, state-licensed gaming facilities, charity gaming events, residential health care facilities and retirement homes, and more.
“It might be easier to write a bill that just lists the places where you can smoke,” remarked Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero. Health advocates vehemently oppose the Senate version, and some even wonder if senators are deliberately trying to scuttle the ban.
Still, this is a historic occasion. This is the first time in state legislative history that a smoking ban has passed both houses of the General Assembly. In recent years, a ban has passed the House only to die in the Senate. Even if a bill doesn't make it to the desk of Gov. Mitch Daniels, a milestone on the road of incremental change has been reached.
Indiana is on a shrinking list of states without bans. As of this month, 27 states have bans, although most of them have an exemption two (casino operations being the most common). Adding up all the state and local bans, the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation estimates, 79.6 percent of the population lives under a ban on smoking, although only 48.5 percent lives under a ban covering all workplaces, restaurants and bars.