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Smoking ban passes health board

By Clay Winowiecki - cwinowiecki@chronicle-tribune.com

The Grant County Health Board voted 4 - 2 in favor of a smoking ban ordinance on Monday. The ordinance, if passed by the Grant County Commissioners, will prohibit smoking inside bars and at public places.

This is the second time the health board has passed the smoking ordinance. After the board initially passed it in September 2018, the commissioners requested some changes be made and sent it back to the health board for another vote.

Those changes included adding e-cigarettes and vape pens to the smoking ban and allowing smoking establishments to file for an exemption to the ban.

Local bar owners spoke out against the ordinance at the meeting, saying it would seriously impact their businesses.

“Nobody is going to quit because of (this ban),” said Charlie Weaver, co-owner of Good Time Charlie's. “What they're going to do is take a six pack and go home and smoke.”

Jay Yeakle, owner of Yeakle’s Sports Bar, said the ban would not only negatively affect business but would also take away residents' rights.

“I agree that smoking isn't good for you and I agree that smoking shouldn’t be (near) children,” Yeakle said. “(But) our fathers, mothers fought wars for us to keep our liberties.

“(I) don't think you should be the one to make a choice for somebody that is 21 and over,” he added.

Board member Philip Renfroe said while he appreciates the public’s statements, the board's job isn’t to take into consideration the economic impact of its decisions.

“This board's responsibility is not deciding economic policy. This board is responsible for deciding what is good for the health of the county,” Renfroe said.

According to Miranda Spitznagle, director for the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission at the Indiana State Department of Health, who spoke during the meeting, policy changes are an important way to reduce the number of smokers in the county.

“A key factor in helping those quit tobacco use is for them to be supported with that in 100 percent smoke free air environments,” Spitznagle said. “Smoke free air in all workplaces and in public places, including campuses and grounds, is important for those wanting to be tobacco free.”

She added that other key measures to reduce tobacco consumption are educational campaigns, access to cessation resources and local community organizations.

“Tobacco is an addiction and it's also a chronic disease,” Spitznagle said. “As we strive for healthy communities, our environments should seek to protect non-smokers and model healthy choices for our youths and young adults.”

According to Nick McLain, an advocate at the American Lung Association, the issue of losing business is overstated.

“While (businesses) may lose a few (customers) who refuse to go outside for a couple minutes every hour to smoke, they will also gain new customers who didn't want to come to a smoking establishment,” McLain said in a prepared statement.

“Non-smokers also have rights,” he added. “I know many people who would love to go out but can't because of the smoking.”

The ordinance also states that any smoking outside of public buildings, such as bars and clubs, must be done at least 20 feet away from the premises.

The smoking ordinance will go before county commissioners next, who have the final say on the updated ban.

The next commissioners meeting will take place May 6 at 2 p.m.

In addition to the smoking ordinance, the health board also approved a motion for the Grant County Health Department to sell protective sleeves for birth certificates for $5 and tabled an on-site septic tank ordinance. The next health board meeting is June 17 at 5 p.m.