Commissioners to discuss smoking ban

The county commissioners will meet today for possible final action on a proposal to restrict smoking in restaurants.

The meeting, which is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at the Horizon center, comes a week after the commissioners decided to take the proposal under advisement to research its constitutionality.

The county commissioners decided to postpone a vote on the ordinance to ban smoking in restaurants after listening to the concerns of residents and business owners for two hours on the morning of July 1.

The bill, called the Delaware County Restaurant Children's Clean Air Act, states that restaurants must provide an enclosed or ventilated area for smokers. Children under 16 would be prevented from dining in these areas.

Under the proposal, smoking would also be prohibited in restrooms, entryways and waiting areas.

The ordinance, if adopted, will take effect in five years.

Current restaurants would be grandfathered and exempt under the act, as well as bowling centers, bars, taverns and truck stops.

Of the more than 200 people in attendance, 32 took to the podium to voice their opinions.

Most opposed the ordinance, saying the county needed a complete ban on smoking in all public buildings.

"It was put together with compromise," said Kal Rissman, a nicotine dependency counselor at Ball Memorial Hospital. "And that takes all the teeth out of the ordinance."

Rissman said the proposal is weak because it does not protect minors working in restaurants and exempts most restaurants that are popular.

He received a 30 second standing ovation from most the crowd after declaring that all public building in Delaware County should be smoke free.

Linda Marsh, an ex-smoker, said the idea of having smoking sections in restaurants is absurd and that smoke always drifts into non-smoking sections.

"It's the same as designating a specific area in a pool as a peeing section," she said.

But there were some who said the commission would be taking a step in the right direction by passing the current piece of legislature.

"It's a very do-able compromise," Amy Genova said. "It's not as much as I would like. But it is a step in the right direction."

John Livengood, president of the Restaurant and Hospitality Association of Indiana, said he did not see a need for a government imposed solution. He said he feared the passage of the smoking ordinance would lead to more violations of personal freedoms.

"It isn't about smoking," he said. "This thing is a slippery slope. Be careful on how far you go in terms of moving that line of government regulation."

Other businessman said they would feel more comfortable if smoking was totally banned in all restaurants on a statewide level.

Paul Troxell, manager of Doc's night club, and Marshall Willis, owner of Munsee Lanes bowling center, said the ordinance might lead to bankruptcy for smaller business that could not afford installing ventilation systems. Banning smoking in all restaurants in the state, Willis said, would "level the playing field."

Third district Commissioner Ron Bonham said he will not hesitate to support a more restrictive ordinance.


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