The Council then voted 14-13 to table the proposal, allowing it to return for a vote later in the session. Advocates of the new ban expect it to come up for a vote again early next year.
Indianapolis’s existing smoking ban is pretty severe, including a ban on smoking in all restaurants into which minors are admitted. But the votes for a further ban were not there.
Naturally, the anti-smoking groups pledged to continue their battle, but so did the ban opponents. “If anything is a threat to Indianapolis business, you can expect Indianapolis business owners to fight it,” said Brad Klopfenstein, leader of a coalition called Save Indianapolis Bars, in the Indianapolis Business Journal. “We don’t expect it to go away.”
Despite the defeat, Council member and measure co-sponsor Ben Hunter (R) said he expects the ban extension to eventually pass.
The latest chapter was a meeting of the Los Angeles City Council’s Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee on Tuesday morning, where a proposed ordinance was ready for passage and to be sent to the City Council for final approval.
But it got nowhere.
A lengthy process of discussions among City Council members and proponents and opponents of the proposed ban on extending the City’s ban to “outdoor dining areas” led to an agreement last year with Committee chair Tom LaBonge that both sides would not object to an ordinance which imposed a smoking ban in outdoor dining areas of restaurants, but not on outdoor serving areas of bars or nightclubs, which also meant that restaurants which switch to adults-only admissions in the evening hours (essentially becoming a bar) could also allow outdoor smoking on their patios.
But the ordinance as drafted by the Los Angeles City Attorney did not reflect that agreement, especially in its requirements for signage which simply said “no smoking” and did not provide for smoking given a change in admissions status for adults only.
Against this background, at the Tuesday morning hearing, anti-smoking advocates tried to push aside the deal worked out in 2008 and asked for a complete smoking ban in outdoor areas of bars and nightclubs, as well as at restaurants at all times. Representatives of the Cigar Rights of America group responded that the committee members had not even inspected the kind of late-night spots that would be impacted, especially for cigar smokers, although LaBonge did visit a bagel shop and diner on a tour with the anti-smoking lobby.
Moreover, the composition of the three-member Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee was changed earlier in the year and instead of Council members Jan Perry and Janice Hahn – who both seemed quite willing to pass any extension of L.A.’s smoking bans – new members Ed Reyes and Herb Wesson had plenty of concerns about not only the signage issues, but also how it would be enforced as the draft ordinance included no provisions for a City agency to be responsible for enforcement.
The anti-smoking forces suggested that private citizens could shoot pictures or video of smokers in outdoor dining areas and turn them in, but LaBonge, instantly recognizing this as the same neighbor-turning-in-neighbor tactics which made the Gestapo so effective in Nazi Germany, was clear that he was not interested in having private citizens acting as the police.
LaBonge also decided to ask for another exemption, for restaurants which have two or more outdoor dining areas, to allow smoking on one if the other is 100 feet or more away.
The matter is now back in the hands of the City Attorney’s Office to re-draft a proposed ordinance, with a possible return hearing on December 8.
The actions in these two American cities were hardly decisive, but are noteworthy in that the anti-smoking lobby is having to work a lot harder and longer to push toward Prohibition than they may have thought they would. Opponents of smoking bans are pushing just as hard to stop their expansion, and given the impacts on freedom and business, legislators are listening.