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Indiana Supreme Court upholds Indianapolis smoking ban

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By Jasmine Otam

Hoosiers who want to avoid second hand smoke can continue to breathe easy in Indianapolis after the Indiana Supreme Court ruled to uphold the current smoking ban.

The Indianapolis ordinance was first passed in 2005, banning smoking in public businesses. The original ordinance exempted bars and taverns that had liquor licenses and didn’t employ or serve anyone under the age of 18. However, in 2012, it was amended to remove the bar and tavern exemption. The amendment left satellite gambling facilities exempt.

Businesses in Beech Grove, Southport, Lawrence and Speedway do not have to abide by this ordinance, even though they are located in Marion County.

Owners of Whistle Stop Inn and Thirsty Turtle, both Indianapolis bars, filed the lawsuit in an attempt to end the ban, citing it as a violation of the Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause in the Indiana Constitution, which does not allow the government to grant privileges or immunities to certain citizens, but not all.

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the ordinance is not in violation of the Indiana Constitution.

“The Ordinance’s exemption for satellite gambling facilities is reasonably related to the inherent differences distinguishing satellite gambling facilities from bars and restaurants,” wrote Justice Brent Dickson in the 11-page opinion.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is pleased with the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling, but expressed disappointment in the preservation of the gaming facility exemption.

“Everyone – no matter where they work – should be kept safe from deadly secondhand smoke,” Indiana Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Bryan Hannon, said in a statement. “It’s our hope that, in the future, the City of Indianapolis will expand its smoke-free air law to cover all employees at all workplaces. Until then, some Hoosiers will still have to choose between their health and their paychecks.”

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