Much of Michiana has become a battle ground for those who want to ban smoking in public places.
St. Joseph County was the first to pass an ordinance.
Marshall County will have a chance to do the same at a December 6th meeting.
After the first of the year, a county-wide ban is expected to be introduced in Berrien County, while in Elkhart County,
the debate is expected to move before the Goshen City Council.
The evidence on the dangers of second hand smoke is overwhelming.
While many admit banning smoking in public places is the right thing to do, some question whether “this” is the right way to do it.
The battles are being fought county by county and city by city, instead of state by state.
In the middle are businesses, that compete against one another, and are concerned about fairness.
In March, the management at Christos Restaurant in Plymouth decided to ban smoking,
and there's certainly no law against that.
According to owner Christ Kurtis, “in the first couple of weeks we did take a dip, but we're right back where our averages were before. We did have some customers get mad at me and left, a week or two weeks later they started to come back.”
Now, Marshall County’s three commissioners are being asked to make that decision for the rest of the businesses in town, by passing a smoking ban.
Commissioner Kevin Overmyer feels that’s none of his business: “If it is a health issue, then the state should take control of it, but the state doesn't want to take control of it,
so they leave it up to each county now. Which if you have a patchwork of different ordinances from one county to another and it's just not, it's just not fair.”
For instance, the ordinance proposed for Marshall County would ban smoking in bars, while the ban passed in St. Joseph County did not.
Mary has been bartending for 19-years at the Mayflower, in Plymouth and she feels that’s not fair. “They've taken a lot of our rights away this is one, people need to stand up and say, hey, wait a minute,
enough is enough.”
And some businesses like Mundy’s Restaurant in Plymouth
Feel they’re being penalized simply because of the type of clientele they’ve attracted over the years.
According to employee Patty O’Banion, “over half of our customers smoke here, you know, it's an old establishment.”
According to one Mundy’s customer, a smoking ban would change his habbits, “I'll still smoke, and if I can't smoke in here, then I won't be in here.”
Even those bringing the proposed ban before the Marshall County Commissioners agree, there has got to be a better way. According to Dr. John Haste, “what works the best is a statewide ordinance.”
But in the “battle of the bans,” there seems to be a secret to success that is simply being imitated in communities throughout Michiana.
Haste says, “if you look at New York (and) other states that have good comprehensive ordinances, they started with one town would vote, then the next county would vote,
the next town would vote, next county. When they finally got enough snowball effect of 50-percent of the state being covered, then state legislators heard the message and voted to do it statewide.”
Meantime, out on the campaign trail, Jack Roose says he got the message, where smoking in marshall county was concerned. According to Roose, “They know my stand on it, And they know the way I'd vote come next
January when i'm in office. It's pretty interesting,
They're trying to get it through quick as they can.”
The latest request that Marshall County go “cold turkey,” came before a “lame duck” board of County Commissioners.
The matter could be decided by the time commissioner elect Roose, who is an outspoken opponent of the smoking ban,
Takes office in January.
The frustrating thing for proponents of the ban is to have so much pure science on their side where the dangers of second hand smoke are concerned, and yet run into the realities of political science.
According to Dr. Haste, “the Center for Disease Control knows that, the National Institute of Health knows that,
the World Health Organization knows it,
the Marshall county health board knows
it, all the physicians at two hospitals know it.
The difficult thing is understanding how three commissioners
Can sit there and not understand the importance of this ordinance.”
The Marshall County Commissioners could vote on the proposed smoking ban, at their December 6th meeting.
Meantime, as the debate moves to Michigan, the fairness issue raised by some Indiana bars and restaurants...
Is not an issue.
In Michigan, local governments are prevented by law
from regulating smoking in bars and restaurants.
We’ll have more on that in our next installment.