Porter County towns look to Bloomington for smoking law example

Less than half of states, 22, have laws in effect requiring 100 percent smoke-free workplaces, restaurants and bars, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation data collected in October of this year.

All restaurants and workplaces in the Porter County town of Valparaiso are smoke-free, but the bars are not. These types of partial smoking bans can be seen in 18 other Indiana communities, including Indianapolis, Lafayette and Carmel.

Chesterton, Ind., also in Porter County, currently allows smoking in various restaurants and bars. Now it is considering joining the 12 other Indiana communities — such as Bloomington and West Lafayette — where smoking is prohibited in all workplaces, restaurants and bars.

At a Nov. 23 Chesterton town hall meeting titled “Smoke-Free Town”, local attorney Charles Lukmann said he didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of neighboring cities such as Valparaiso by simply adopting their laws.  

Lukmann welcomed public input on the issue to be sent to him before the next meeting on Dec. 6, when he will present a drafted smoke-free ordinance to the Chesterton Town Council.

Town manager Bernie Doyle said smoking bans throughout the nation are part of a natural trend for obvious reasons, such as protecting the health of nonsmokers and smokers alike.

“It’s a major cultural shift from when I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s,” Doyle said. “Teachers smoked, doctors smoked, but there has been this shift away from it in the last 30 years.”

A former smoker, Doyle said he doesn’t enjoy secondhand smoke when he enters an establishment. But he does see the other side of the argument to allow businesses to decide upon smoking allowances for themselves, without the government taking control.

“I have kind of mixed emotions,” he said. “Part of me doesn’t want to see government intervention in people’s daily lives, but sometimes the government has to step in and make tough decisions for the best interest of everyone.”

Chesterton residents also showed split emotions.  

Bar and restaurant owners in the small town beg to differ, saying the ban could drive away business.

Chesterton’s Popolano’s restaurant has an outdoor patio where smoking is currently allowed.

Manager Justin Jeffress said the smoking area is something he thinks the restaurant should be able to continue to provide for customers. And because a smoking ordinance would bar smokers from the entire establishment, the restaurant could be negatively effected.

Bar owners at the local American Legion Post 1701 were upset at the thought of a town-wide smoking ban, saying it would hurt business significantly, as almost all of their customers smoke.

Chesterton’s smoke-free ordinance still has a long way to go, and it may continue to be a heated topic in the coming months, Doyle said.

Porter County resident Amber Bigman said she thinks restaurants should ban smoking, but bars should be left out of the issue.

“A lot of people who don’t smoke regularly do when they drink,” Bigman said. “Bars also don’t allow children, so why can’t adults smoke in an adult establishment?”

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