Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wages of Service Industry Workers

Today's Indianapolis Star, has an interesting article on the wages that Indiana's service industry workers earn on the job. Waiters and Waitresses are still only making $2.13 an hour plus tips, which works out to be $12-$15 an hour. As can be imagined this is a small amount in which we are asking the people who serve us food and drinks to live on. When you factor this amount in with the fact that most restaurants and bars do not offer health insurance, you have a group of people who desperately need to work in an environment that does not give them cancer. The servers and bartenders of today unfortunately could be the individuals of tomorrow who need government assistance for health care costs if they work in a smoky place. Indiana and Indianapolis needs to pass a strong smokefree air law that protects all workers from the cancer causing chemicals in secondhand smoke. We need a strong law now, and not one that is watered down with exemptions.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Star Editorial

Today, the Indianapolis Star published another supportive editorial on the need to pass a strong smokefree air law in Indiana. We thank the Star for continually standing up for the rights of all Indiana workers to breathe smokefree air. Also today, there were several news conference held around the state by local coalitions and organizations, including Smoke Free Indy, asking for the exemptions to be removed from HB 1018. It is important that all workers are protected from the harmful chemicals in secondhand smoke. Many of our neighbors have strong smoke free air laws that cover all workplaces including bars (Illinois, Ohio and Michigan) along with 21 other states. Now is the time to pass a strong smokefree air law for the health of all Hoosiers.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

HB 1018 Update

Yesterday, the Senate Public Policy Committee heard several hours of testimony both for and against HB 1018, the smokefree air bill. Unfortunately, not a lot of progress happened at the hearing with no real consensus being made by the members of the committee. They will be meeting again next week to decide on removing the exemptions for bars, membership clubs, casinos, nursing homes and/or tobacco stores. They could also decide to add in more exemptions that would exclude even more workplaces in Indiana, further exposing workers to the harmful chemicals in secondhand smoke.

During the hearing there was very moving testimony given by Alice Curry of Columbus, who has stage four lung cancer even though she never smoked, but she did work in smokey environments. She pleaded with the committee to not let another worker in Indiana experience what she is going through by passing a comprehensive smokefree air law. Though it appears that members of the committee may very well turn a deaf ear to her pleas and either not pass a comprehensive bill and or pass one that is so watered down that it proves to be useless.

We are surrounded by smokefree states, and every year more and more states are going smoke free in all businesses including restaurants and bars. How is it that Indiana is so far behind on this issue? Do we really need to be last on everything? The fact that the room yesterday was littered by tobacco and casino lobbyist may tip the hat as to why Indiana can't pass a good public health bill that will save lives and money and is instead budding up to special interests.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Smokefree Air Laws Do Not Impact Off Track Betting Parlors

A new study out in this month's Tobacco Control Journal, finds that smokefree air laws do not impact business in off-track betting parlors (OTB). The research was done by Jon Macy at Indiana University and covers OTB's in Indiana. Macy found that Fort Wayne's OTB did not loose business after going smokefree compared to the OTB's in Indianapolis and Merrillville that allow smoking. All three OTB's business fluctuated with the economy at a similar rate even after the Fort Wayne smokefree air law was implemented in 2007.

This study is very important because it debunks the claim by the gambling industry that going smokefree will hurt their business. This study aligns itself with the many other studies done across the nation which found that going smokefree does not harm restaurant or bar revenue.

If the state does not pass a smokefree air bill this session, hopefully Indianapolis will pass a law that covers all businesses including our OTB sooner rather than later. If 24 states and countless cities can go smokefree, Why Not Indy?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hearing on HB 1018

This Wednesday, March 23rd, at 1:30 p.m. in room 431 there will be a hearing on HB 1018 in the Senate Public Policy Committee. The hearing will offer a time for supporters of a statewide smokefree air law to come forward and show their support for the bill.

If you would like to contact members of the committee in support of HB 1018, you can visit this link to send messages to the individual Committee members.

List of Public Policy Committee Members:
Senator Ron Alting (Chair, Co-sponsor)
Senator Vaneta Becker
Senator Mike Delph
Senator Randy Head
Senator Jim Merritt
Senator Joe Zakas
Senator Tim Lanane
Senator Greg Taylor (Co-sponsor)
Senator Jim Arnold
Senator Brent Waltz

Every worker deserves the right to breathe smokefree air, including those in bars, casinos and private clubs.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

IBJ Article on Big Ten Tournament Bar Selection

Today, the Indianapolis Business Journal, has an article on the bar selection for each visiting team of the Big Ten Tournament. Three of the eleven teams were given smoky bars as their home bars, even though two come from Michigan which is a smokefree state. Penn State, which also got a smoky bar, has law that is similar to ours but is preempted from passing a stronger law.

A group of Michigan State Alumni sent a letter to the IBJ speaking out about the bar selection for their school. Here is the letter:

Recently, a bar guide was released for the Big Ten Tournament with the assigned bars for each school. I was shocked to see that Michigan State and Michigan were assigned bars that still allow smoking. In total, 8 of the 11 teams were assigned smokefree bars. This shows a lack of concern for our health. Why are Michigan residents singled out? We cherish our health just as much as anyone else. We’ve proven that by establishing a smokefree law in our state. Many Michigan State fans will not be happy leaving our smokefree state and traveling to Indianapolis where we will have to put our health at risk by inhaling the secondhand smoke of others. It’s time for Indiana to join Michigan and the rest of the Midwest and make all restaurants and bars smokefree.

Sincerely, Michigan State Alumni

For the second year in a row Smoke Free Indy has developed a bar guide that highlights the home bars along with a list of smokefree bars downtown. This is the guide mentioned in the letter. Smoke Free Indy would like all bars to be smokefree and we realize that visitors from other smokefree cities and states do too which is the point behind developing the guide.

If you want to speak out about some of the home bars selected being smoky you can contact the Indiana Sports Corporation here: or email:

Spending two hours in a bar is equal to smoking five cigarettes.

Smoke Free Indy Press Release on the Big Ten Bar Guide

Foul Play: Three Schools assigned smoking home bars for the Big Ten
Smoke Free Indy to provide list of downtown smoke-free venues to basketball fans

INDIANAPOLIS – The moment basketball players receive the ball they have three options: to shoot, pass or dribble. A player who excels in all three of these tasks is called a triple threat. Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State fans visiting Indiana for the Big Ten Basketball Tournaments will face their own triple threat: the tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide in secondhand smoke.
Out of the 11 teams in the Big Ten, these three schools were assigned home bars that allow smoking, exposing fans wishing to watch the games or congregate with their peers to potential lethal damage to hearts, lungs and arteries.

“Now that Michigan is smoke-free, we [Michigan residents] expect bars to be smoke-free. It would be great to be able to visit Indianapolis without having to go back home smelling like an ashtray,” said Jason Harder, East Lansing, MI, resident and Michigan State alumnus.

Penn State is the only Big Ten team coming from a city that still allows workplace smoking. Pennsylvania state law prevents cities and communities from passing a smoke-free air law. Furthermore, twenty-four states across the nation have smoke-free air laws covering all workplaces, and of the top 15 largest U.S. cities, only Indianapolis and Philadelphia are not smoke-free.

To help these visitors feel at home Smoke Free Indy will be providing a guide listing all the smoke free bars in downtown Indianapolis. The guide also includes a list of the universities’ home bars. Fans can pick up a guide at several home bars and downtown hotels or download a copy at

“I am so thankful that the Purdue bar is smoke-free. It's great that visiting Boilermakers can still breathe smoke-free air in a city that has yet to make a commitment to protecting all its workers and patrons from secondhand smoke,” said Missy Lewis, Purdue alumna and chair of Smoke Free Indy. “Hopefully Indianapolis will take note of the success of other smoke-free cities and protect all Indianapolis residents as well as the millions of visitors who come to our great city.”

Many in the tourism and convention industry have expressed concern that the lack of a comprehensive smoke-free policy can hamper the development of tourism and convention business in Indianapolis. The American Public Health Association, for instance, will not host a conference in a city that allows indoor workplace smoking. Their annual conference draws 13,000 attendees.

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Smoke Free Indy is a coalition of state and local public health organizations, community based organizations, physicians, businesses, schools, the faith community, and Marion County residents dedicated to reducing secondhand smoke, tobacco usage and tobacco initiation through education, prevention and advocacy. For more information visit:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Five-Year Anniversary

Yesterday was an important anniversary for Indianapolis, one not really noticed by anyone but the Smoke Free Indy coalition, it was the five-year anniversary of Indianapolis' smokefree air law. On March 1, 2006, Indianapolis implemented its smokefree air law in restaurants and businesses. While at the time this was an important victory for Indianapolis and public health, five years has now lapsed and the victory seems pretty hollow, especially as countless cities and states have passed stronger policies around the nation.

It does not look like Indianapolis will pass a smoke free air law anytime soon with the lack of full support in the Council and Mayor's office. At this time our best hope is that the state can pass a strong smokefree air law this session, otherwise we may have to wait until 2012 after the election before anything can pass in Indianapolis. But let our smokefree air law serve as an example to the state legislature that if a weak law passes now it could take at least five years for the loopholes to be fixed.