Smoking ban debate over in Indiana

It remains to be seen who will win the Super bowl, but it has suddenly become clear who will win the smoking ban debate in Indiana.

A bill to ban smoking in public places passed the house 73 to 26 earlier this week-but that bill is going nowhere in the senate.

Senate President Pro-tem David Long says that economic times are tough and a statewide ban could hurt business. Long says the senate isn't ready to consider a ban at this time.

"Well the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House are the two bosses so to speak and they make the calls," said Ind. Sen. Jim Arnold, (D) LaPorte. "That's a power that's awarded to the party in the majority and that's his call and I respect that."

Still, some insist that Indiana's reluctance to approve a statewide smoking ban is earning it a new nickname. "The ash tray of the Midwest, unfortunately, but that is what we have been termed," said Jill Sabo with Tobacco Free St. Joe County.

It's an alleged reputation Indiana isn't likely to lose anytime soon, despite Sabo's willingness to do so. "Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin have all gone tobacco free, comprehensively, and I think that we're ready."

Senator Arnold agrees. "I would like to address it, let's put it to rest one way or another, and then let's move on to other issues and quit spending time every session on certain issues that seem to raise their ugly head every session."

Senator Arnold discounts the contention that economic conditions should derail the debate. "I know that all surveys show Indiana is the second largest smoking state in the country, next to West Virginia. It can call it economy if they want, if they chose to do so, they probably have their facts and figures to support that, but sooner or later we've got to start looking at medical costs-what it's costing for second hand smoke. How much money we're spending, Indiana spends about $2 billion a year in smoke related medical issues in this state."

Sen. Arnold does see one advantage to waiting until next year to address a possible ban. Next year's session is a 'long' one, while this year's session is short-slated to end in mid March.


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