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Indiana Governor Signs Smoking Ban into Law

(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)

Indiana's governor Monday morning signed the state's first-ever anti-smoking bill into law at a public ceremony at the statehouse in Indianapolis.

Smoking won't be welcome at Indiana restaurants, but smokers need not to worry - there will still be plenty of places to light up in the Hoosier state, and restaurants have time to prepare for the change; the ban doesn't go into effect until July 1. Smokers will still be able to get their fix in Indiana casinos, bars, cigar shops and private clubs.

Gov. Mitch Daniels said he understands the bill won't please critics who wanted a stronger law, but he said it was important to get something on the books while lawmakers were in the mood.

"Indiana has wrestled for a long time in how to protect public health, employees in particular and public spaces against the hazards of second-hand smoke," Daniels said. "It's been a very, very long march. Lots of interests that need to be balanced."

Daniels credited state Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary) with getting the measure past the finish line. Brown had spent six years advocating for a smoking ban.

"Got to say, Charlie, I'm really happy for you. You have worked so long and so tirelessly on this and never gave up," Daniels said. "I hope you feel you've achieved a really great thing here."

The number of exemptions has proven to be a controversial issue, though, especially among groups critical of smoking. Amanda Estridge, lobbiest and spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society of Indianapolis, said her organization did not support the final legislation.

"It's much harder to change a bill once it becomes law," Estridge said. "We don't agree that something is better than nothing."

Estridge said the law does not protect the 17,000 people who are employed by Indiana's gambling industry. She added Indiana spends $3.8 billion a year on smoking-related health care costs, with 11,000 annual deaths being attributed to the habit.

John Livengood is the president of the Indiana Restaurant Association. He said for most restaurants, the smoking ban is a good thing.

"I've always encouraged (businesses) to try because for most restaurants, it does not hurt their business," Livengood said. "In fact, it may help their business."

Livengood also heads the Indiana Hotel and Lodging Association. He said hotel rooms may have a tough time enforcing the smoking ban since it's difficult to control what goes on in a hotel room.

The ban takes effect in July.

Categories: Business, Government, Politics