ON Monday, Jan 24th, the chesterton Town Council heard public comments regarding passing a policy regarding smoking in public venues. Below is an article that appeared in the Chesterton Tribune:
Chesterton Town Council hears comments on proposed smoke free ordinance
By Kevin Nevers
Avowed smoke-free advocates outnumbered their opposites on Monday—according to the sign-in sheet at the Chesterton town hall—by 39 to 11.
But the free-choicers put up a good fight anyway, at a special meeting called by the Town Council to gather comments about a proposed smoke-free ordinance.
The Town Council took no action on the ordinance, a copy of which was at last released.
The salient points of that ordinance, as prepared by Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann:
•Smoking would be prohibited in all “enclosed public places within the town.”
•Smoking would be prohibited in all “enclosed areas within places of employment.”
•Smoking would be prohibited “within a reasonable distance from an enclosed area,” “in no event any closer than 15 feet so as to ensure that tobacco smoke does not enter establishments designated smoke-free . . . through entrances, windows, ventilation intakes, or other means.”
•But smoking would not—repeat, not—be regulated in private residences; hotel rooms designated as smoking rooms so long as no more than 30 percent of all rooms are so designated; and retail tobacco stores.
•Smoking would also not be regulated at “family-owned and operated businesses and offices in which all employees are related to the owner,” so long as “the enclosed areas of these businesses and offices are not open to the public.”
•Similarly, smoking would not be regulated in bars or private clubs, so long as they apply for and are granted an exemption.
•Smoking would be prohibited in all town-owned vehicles but not in a vehicle used by an employee of a private business so long as only that employee uses that vehicle.
•Smoking by actors on stage, as part of a performance, would not be prohibited, so long as the audience is warned prior to the start of the performance that smoking will occur.
•“To defray administrative expenses in connection with the exemption, each application shall be accompanied by a non-refundable fee of $50.”
•If approved, the ordinance would take effect on May 1, 2011.
Of the 14 persons who spoke about the proposed ordinance, eight did so in favor of it.
Patricia Carlisle, who originally broached the issue before the council last fall, said that the ordinance “would increase the qualify of life in our community and protect our children and employees.”
Kim Goldak cited numerous statistics released by the American Cancer Society to the effect that second-hand smoke is blamed for 46,000 deaths annually in the U.S. and between 200,000 and 1 million asthma attacks.
Natalie Rivio made much the same point. “Even as much as 15 minutes’ (exposure to second-hand smoke) can trigger a heart attack,” she said.
Joe Juarez and Jordan Harris, both representing the Boys and Girls Club of Porter County (BGCPC)—and accompanied by a number of children—noted that the BGCPC has made a concerted effort “to scare” kids about smoking. “We want them to know how dangerous it is,” Juarez said. “These kids are here because they want to be here. They’re very passionate about not smoking. As a town, we need to show them smoking won’t be tolerated in public places.”
Kim Eldrige, speaking on business operators’ fear that a ban would hurt their bottom lines, said that “the bars and restaurants in Chicago are full.” And she added, “I’m disappointed to see that there’s going to be some exceptions to the ban.”
Sandra Hutson, for her part, said that she dines in Valparaiso, where a smoking ban is in effect. “I go to Valparaiso to have dinner because I won’t go to eat in town.”
And Brianna Herndon, speaking on behalf of the American Cancer Society and in response to the argument about government’s infringement of personal freedoms, said that government “oftentimes” enacts such laws “for the greater good” and that “its safer to have a smoking ban.”
Of the 14 who spoke, six did so in opposition to the proposed ordinance. All of them conceded the point that smoking will kill you.
Dana Malone, a business owner, made the level-playing field argument. “Until there’s a statewide ban,” she said, “it’s not fair to businesses where people can just go across the tracks to Porter.”
Ed Meroz spoke bluntly. “You’re going to hurt the town,” he said. “Business is going to drop off. People can just go across the tracks.”
Fred Blackard, manager of Flannery’s, made the free-choice argument. “People make their choice to drink and they make their choice to smoke. And businesses should have the choice. And yes, they will go across the tracks, to Porter, wherever.”
Joe Wagner, owner of the new Uncle Joe’s, agreed with Blackard. “It’s people’s choice if they’re going to drink and smoke,” he said.
Leonard Sullivan—a non-smoker—noted that cigarettes “are a legal product” and only one of the numerous factors in the heavily industrialized transportation corridor of Northwest Indiana which affect cardio-respiratory health.
And Paul Tharp—also a non-smoker—questioned the wisdom of criminalizing an activity in which 24 percent of the adult population indulges.
Member Jim Ton, R-1st, spoke for all of his colleagues when he said that no decision would be made immediately. “Tonight is for listening,” he said. “I wanted to hear all comments and we’ll proceed from there.”
Member Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, did say that he had hoped State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, would appear to update the council on smoke-free legislation currently being considered by the Indiana General Assembly.