July 1 marks the beginning of a new era for smokers in Daviess County and throughout Indiana. House Enrolled Act No. 1149 which takes effect next month makes it illegal for smokers to light up in most public places, and even non-smokers will be forced to comply with the new law’s extensive notice and signage requirements.
The law prohibits smoking in the following areas: a public place; a place of employment; state owned vehicles involved in a governmental function; and, the area within eight (8) feet of a public entrance to a public place or a place of employment.”
The law defines a public place as “an enclosed area of a structure in which the public is invited or permitted.” A place of employment means “an enclosed area of a structure that is a place of employment.”
The law contains a requirement that each public place or place of employment exhibit a sign at each public entrance which reads, “State Law Prohibits Smoking Within 8 feet of this entrance.” The sign may contain other similar language. There is no specified size requirement for signs but the law does state they must be “conspicuous.”
The signs need not be made of any special material and, in fact, may be printed off at no charge from the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission website: www.in.gov/atc.
Violators of the new law can include not only people who smoke in prohibited areas, but people in charge of a public place or place of employment who fail to comply with the signage requirements, employers who fail to inform their employees about the smoking prohibition, and employers who fail to remove ashtrays from public areas (unless the employer is in the business of selling ashtrays).
Those who run afoul of the law will not go to jail, however. Rather, they will be charged with an infraction — a civil, not a criminal offense. Depending on how many times a person is found to have violated the law, he or she will be subject to a range of penalties. First, second and third offenders can be charged with a Class B infraction, the penalty for which is a judgment of up to $1,000.
A person’s fourth conviction however constitutes a Class A infraction that can result in a judgment of up to $10,000.
The law may be enforced by the, state department of health, a local department of health, a health and hospital corporation, the division of fire and building safety with the department of homeland security or a law enforcement officer.
Section Five of the law — by far the longest of the law’s 14 sections — lists no fewer than 11 exceptions including casinos, bars and taverns, cigar and hookah bars, and “fraternal clubs.” Exempt businesses must nevertheless post “conspicuous” signs in the establishment that read “WARNING: Smoking Is Allowed In This Establishment.”
In addition, bars and clubs also have to file for an exception with the state commission. The request will be reviewed by the ATC and until the excise police sign off on the exception, the bar or club must be smoke free. They may continue to allow smoking, but they risk a citation.
At least one Washington resident is displeased with the passage of the law which he sees as unreasonable governmental interference. “It’s ridiculous,” said David Eskew. “Members of the Legion and the VFW fought wars to protect our rights to do things and then the government takes them away. Even in the private clubs. I can understand banks and places like that but not the clubs. They are taking freedom away from us. Next week they’ll say we can’t drink Pepsi.”
Eskew, who owns a plumbing business in Washington, said he plans to put signs on his premises saying, “Smokers welcome.”
Sally Petty, local coordinator for the Indiana Tobacco Prevention Cessation Commission countered.
“We all have the right to breathe clean air in the workplace. The law does not deny people the right to smoke. It was passed to protect the health of workers. Twelve-hundred non-smokers per year die in Indiana from secondhand smoke related diseases.”
Those diseases, including a “variety of cancers,” Petty said. “That cost the state millions of dollars each year in health care costs and productivity.
Kathy Sullender, Daviess County Health Nurse, says of the law, ìIt is going to affect every public facility in Daviess County. Some of the initial reports about the law were very vague but now that we know the specifics, we know it affects a lot of people and many of them have no idea. Daviess County environmental health specialist Geoff Stoner also suspects the community is not aware of just how far reaching the new law is. “The law passed the General Assembly in March, but the final materials haven’t been out there until the last few weeks,” Stoner said.
Sullender and Stoner are prepared to assist local businesses with questions about the law and can be reached by calling the Daviess County Health Department at 254-8666.
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