Smoke ’em if you got ’em — because you won’t get to smoke ’em for long.
A state ban scheduled to go into effect July 1 will have a broad impact in Bartholomew County, where smoking is permitted in all public places outside Columbus. On that day, businesses in the county will have to snuff their smokes.
That affects Jonesville. That affects Hope. That affects Taylorsville. That affects every part of the county outside the city of Columbus, which has had a ban since 2005.
Stephanie Truly, tobacco prevention coordinator for Healthy Communities, said the state law marks significant progress toward Healthy Communities’ ultimate goal of a flat-out smoking ban in all public places. About one-quarter of adults in Bartholomew County smoke.
Bars, private clubs and tobacco retailers are exempt from the requirements of the new law, the same exemptions Columbus established in its smoking ordinance.
Make no mistake — there will be some impact in Columbus. Businesses will be required to hang signs outside their doors to indicate whether they allow smoking, for example. Private clubs like the Elks and Moose will have to separate smokers from children.
But Truly said most of the impact will be in the rest of the county, where she has identified 352 total companies.
County Commissioner Paul Franke said he and the other commissioners never considered a county smoking ban, partly because they assumed a state ban was inevitable but also because they were reluctant to tell business owners what to do.
Some business owners who allow smoking are OK with the new law.
Others don’t like it.
Deckard Tool and Engineering in Hope allows smoking, although only about six of its 26 employees smoke, office manager Jessica Brown said. She said the state law would not be a big deal, because employees take regular breaks and smokers can step outside.
Montana Mike’s Steakhouse in Edinburgh has a handful of smoking tables in the restaurant bar, manager Aaron Ozbun said. But he added that most customers don’t smoke.
“I don’t think going smoke-free will hurt our business at all,” Ozbun said. “I am a smoker, but it’s just time for a change. It’s time to run it out.”
The Corner Cafe in Hope doesn’t allow smoking inside but does let its employees smoke in a break room, owner Ron Cornett said. He said customers may smoke only if they sit in a designated seating area outside, all of which is far enough away from the door to satisfy state law.
Smoking outside can remain. The smoking break room has to go.
“I guess I’m OK with it, but it really should be each business owners’ choice,” Cornett said. “A customer can choose to come in or not to come in if they don’t want to be around the smoke. I think this ban is an infringement on our rights.”
Truly said the state Alcohol and Tobacco Commission would train communities’ anti-smoking coordinators and health department representatives across the state so they know how to handle complaints related to smoking violations. Healthy Communities would report violations to the state Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, which is working out a system of penalties.
But Truly wants to give businesses a reasonable chance to comply.
The state will mail postcards before July 1 to businesses that allow smoking to make sure they understand the law, Truly said. After the law goes into effect, Truly and her team will make unscheduled visits to check compliance.
“You’ll have literally scores of businesses that will have to change what they’re doing,” Truly said. “We need to reach everyone from the big factories to the home businesses so we can make sure everyone knows this new law is coming.”
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