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Smoking ban sparks heated House debate



By Monica Harvey

A bill that would ban smoking in public place and work sites produced heated debate before a committee of the Indiana House of Representatives Wednesday.

House Bill 1018 generated two hours of argument. The only interruption was a fire alarm in the middle of the House Public Health Committee meeting.

Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, said his measure isn't hard to understand. It would ban smoking in public places, in places of employment and within 12 feet of public places or enclosed areas.

"The bill is straight forward," said Brown.

Still, it generated controversy.

Brown dismissed the notion of smokers' rights.

"It should be noted that there is no constitutional right to smoke," said Brown.

Greenfield resident Karena Walter, 38, said she quit her job at the Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg in March because of the secondhand smoke.

"I just want be cared for as a person—as an employee," said Walter.

Mike Smith of the Casino Association of Indiana said a public smoking ban would hurt casinos' business.

The state's Legislative Services Agency, the non-partisan research arm of the Indiana General Assembly, estimates that a would cost Indiana between $95 million and $188 million in gambling tax revenue in fiscal year 2012.

There are three amendments to the bill that will be discussed and voted on next Wednesday.

The committee meeting got interrupted a little after 4 p.m. by the fire alarm. Those in the committee had to leave the building for about 20 minutes, but came back to continue the argument.

The above is one of an ongoing series of daily reports from the Indiana Statehouse by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.


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