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Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

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In State News on August 31, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Gaming Industry Stacks Deck Against Smokefree Workplaces

In State News on August 24, 2009 at 9:52 am

A study commissioned by the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation reveals gaming interests reported more than $3.6 million in lobbying expenditures in a two-year period ending April 30, 2009, according to Indiana public records. Individuals employed by lobbying organizations that represent casinos and horse tracks reported giving more than $228,000 to state political party committees and legislative caucus committees in 2008.

House Speaker Patrick Bauer’s reelection campaign took in at least $60,000 in donations in 2008 from horse racing industry supporters, employees of lobbying firms for casinos and affiliated contributors, including $39,000 in one day alone.

The facts were made public in the “ANR Foundation’s Gaming the Legislature Series: The Gaming Industry Stacks the Deck Against Smokefree Workplaces in Indiana.” Cynthia Hallett, executive director of the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, said the report shows how casinos and allied gaming interests spend enormous amounts of money to buy influence to try to tilt the legislative process in their favor.

“The millions of dollars spent by the gaming industry in Indiana to influence legislation have had a toxic payout for Indiana’s casino workers and the public. When casinos use this influence to defeat a common sense comprehensive smokefree workplace law, the entire state suffers the consequences,” said Hallett. “I hope legislators are able to look past this vast amount of special interest money to act in the best interest of the people of Indiana.”

Karena Walter, a longtime Indiana casino worker, said she hopes legislators ultimately will do the right thing and protect all Hoosier workers from disease and death caused by secondhand smoke.

“I just want to do my job without the health risk that comes from secondhand smoke. I love the work I do and I love my co-workers, but we shouldn’t have to make a choice between our jobs and our health,” said Walter.

The Indiana Gaming Study Commission meets today at 10am in room 431 to discuss, among other issues, “nonsmoking accommodations at riverboat casinos and racinos.”

Spit Tobacco Is Not Good Stop Smoking Aid

In National News on August 14, 2009 at 9:06 am

Using spit tobacco does not help you quit smoking. Call the Indiana Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free coaching and proven methods to help you quit.

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TEG Is Up And Running

In Local News on August 12, 2009 at 8:52 am

Daviess County schools and juvenile probation system have joined together to offer the Tobacco Education Group program to minors caught using tobacco. Each school has written a policy referring first time offenders into the program, and police officers that write tickets to minors for tobacco use will give them the option of attending TEG instead of paying the ticket.

The classes will be held at Washington High School starting Sept. 22 and will go for four Tuesdays. The object of this evidence-based program is to provide a positive alternative to suspension and a court diversion program that will move students forward through the stages of change toward wanting to quit. Our hope is that underage tobacco users will quit or starting thinking about quitting, thereby reducing the number of adult smokers and the number of tobacco-related illnesses and deaths in Daviess County.

Smoking Causes Pancreatitis

In National News on August 10, 2009 at 7:33 am

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More From The Elkhart Truth About Smoking Ban

In State News on August 6, 2009 at 10:18 am

Elkhart City Council snuffs out smoking at bars

ELKHART — A line of more than 40 residents — a mix of bar owners and employees, health officials, anti-smoking proponents and regular citizens — came before the City Council on Monday night.

One side warned of impending job losses and shuttered businesses. The other pleaded for the council to protect the health of residents and workers.

In the end, the council voted down, 5-4, an amendment to a clean air ordinance that would allow smoking at Elkhart bars with valid liquor licenses that only serve customers 21 and older.

The council originally passed a citywide smoking ban in April 2008, after a compromise allowed a one-year exemption for bars that only served customers 21 and older. When that grace period ended May 16, bar owners said business dropped 30 percent or more almost immediately.

Council Vice President Dave Osborne surveyed 19 of the bars that received exemptions, and said 32 employees have been lost since May. Of the 111 employees remaining at the 19 bars, Osborne said 89 of them are smokers and 108 are against the smoking ban.

The council is working too hard to protect just a few more people, he said, and doing so at the expense of residents’ jobs and livelihoods.

“There’s a point of diminishing returns,” Osborne, D-1st, said. “We’ve reached that curve. We can’t get the whole pie, but we’re going to try for .004 more percent. Where’s the fairness?”

Some residents gave emotional testimony before the council, including Pam Weber, a 49-year-old single mom. Always a waitress, Weber said she’s looked for work elsewhere but can’t get hired. If the ban continues, she said she’ll be out of a job.

“The decision you make will not affect you,” she said. “But it will affect the rest of us in this line of work.”

Resident Dwight Fish, however, said he sees the smoking ban debate as a simple quality-of-life issue.

“We’re revisiting something we should not have been revisited,” he said. “We should have taken this ordinance and put it in concrete a year ago.”

Before the debate even began, Mayor Dick Moore told the council he planned to veto the ordinance if it passed. He said he believes a majority of the city supports the ban and the poor economy is the reason bar business has dropped.

“There is no correlation between a smoking ban in a public place and a downturn in business,” he said. “Other downturns are short-lived. I believe this one will be, too.”

Councilman David Henke, R-3rd, said the council has been hypocritical for granting tax phase-ins to bring companies to the area while ignoring employment losses at local bars.

“We are picking and choosing what jobs are acceptable to our city and what jobs are not,” Henke said. “But if you’re unemployed, any job is acceptable when it comes to feeding your families.”

Truth Editorial

In State News on August 3, 2009 at 9:09 am

Originally published in the Elkhart Truth:

Council can’t retreat on smoking ban

The Elkhart City Council is expected to vote Monday night on whether to pull back on Elkhart’s smoking ban by allowing people in bars to begin lighting up again.

The only sensible vote is “no.”

As with almost any controversial issue, the council is hearing from a vocal minority of constituents who want the ordinance overturned.

It’s like the classic bell curve: About 10 percent of the people will feel passionately for the issue, and 10 percent who feel passionately against it. But 80 percent of the people will be OK with the changes that have been made.

We believe that most Elkhartans fall within the 80 percent — they’re fine with smoking not being allowed in restaurants and bars in the city. And the vocal minority on either side — the ones who speak the loudest — don’t represent their feelings.

The majority of folks also know that smoking is bad for you and second-hand smoke is bad for you and they won’t want to be around it or have their loved ones subjected to it.

There are so many variables that might be a factor in why certain bars might be struggling. Elkhart’s economy and high unemployment rate, which at one time was almost 20 percent, must play the biggest part, not whether smoking is allowed.

And look at the local bars and restaurants which seem to be doing fine since the ordinance took effect and in spite of the economy: Mad Anthony’s, 523, Lucchese’s, The Vine, Between the Buns, Cock-a-Doodle Cafe, Harrison Landing, Chubby Trout … and there are others. No one’s been run out of the business by this ordinance.

What does that say? The no-smoking ordinance may not be the primary issue.

But certainly, a few months aren’t long enough to determine the effectiveness of the ordinance. The city council would be irresponsible in taking a step back now.

Council members need to use common sense, strip the passion out of the debate and do the right thing. Vote no on the new ordinance.