ELKHART — Expect signs, lots of them, with implementation of the new state smoking ban.
Though existing anti-smoking laws in effect in Elkhart and Goshen already crack down on smoking in public places, they don't have the same sort of stipulations as the state law about sign placement. Per the state law — which goes into effect today, July 1 — all businesses will have to place signs at each public entrance warning that smoking is prohibited outside around the entryway.
Moreover, public places not exempt from the smoking ban — bars are the notable exemption — will have to place two signs inside warning that smoking is prohibited within the locale. Restaurants will also have to post another sign at each entrance advising the public that smoking is prohibited inside.
Bars and other places where smoking is allowed don't escape sign requirements. Aside from the sign warning that smoking is not allowed outside around an entryway, bars have to post two signs inside stating that smoking is allowed.
Some downtown Elkhart merchants expressed surprise.
“We didn't know this,” said Patricia Little, co-owner of Salon Bliss, a downtown nail and hair salon.
“I'd say we all were confused as to the details and the intricacies,” said Edward Baker, manager of The Perfect Touch Barber Shop, also downtown.
Kyle Hannon, vice president of public policy at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, doesn't think the rule will be a big deal for most businesses. He hasn't heard much griping, though some critics oppose any sort of smoking ban.
“That is a pretty minor expense and a minor intrusion,” he said, noting sign rules and stipulations of other regulatory bodies. “Posting a sign is not a new thing for a company.”
Likewise, authorities probably won't go searching out businesses without signs.
Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission excise police, among others, will be responsible for enforcing the smoking law, according to Mark Potuck, project director of Tobacco Control of Elkhart County. But they'll likely be more focused on charges of smoking where it shouldn't be happening.
Still, at least one merchant thinks the sign rules are a bit much.
“I think it's way overkill,” said Deb Rowe, owner of Sweet Creams Soda Shop. Alluding to the stipulation calling for signs warning that smoking isn't allowed around the entry of businesses, she said she pays property taxes on her building, not the sidewalk outside the structure.
Little thinks it goes without saying that smoking isn't allowed in a place like her salon. “It's kind of common sense that you can't smoke here anyway,” she said.
ELKHART AND GOSHEN BANS
Indiana lawmakers approved the new state law, House Enrolled Act 1149, during the legislative session earlier this year.
It prohibits smoking in most public places, like restaurants, factories and other places of employment. Notably, bars not open to anyone younger than 21 are excepted, along with casinos and private clubs and fraternal organizations that vote to allow smoking.
The new law also prohibits smoking within eight feet of the exterior entryways of businesses.
In Elkhart and Goshen, the new state law shouldn't cause a noticeable change, aside from new signs.
Elkhart's smoking ban is stricter in some respects — it also prohibits lighting up in bars — and it'll remain largely as is because the new state law allows for more stringent local laws. Elkhart prohibits smoking within 15 feet of a business's entry, seven more feet than the state law, and Mayor Dick Moore said that won't change. However, the city law will be tweaked to match the new state prohibition on smoking in hotel and motel rooms, Mayor Dick Moore said in a press release.
Goshen's law allows smoking in bars, like the state law, and it also allows lighting up in restaurants that have enclosed, ventilated, designated smoking areas. Per the state law, the rule permitting smoking in designated areas inside restaurants will be phased out, according to Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman.
Impacted will be Buffalo Wild Wings on the northwestern edge of Goshen off U.S. 33. To come in line with the state law, Paula Stutzman, a manager there, said smoking will be prohibited in the bar area, configured to comply with the Goshen law, though it will remain enclosed.
Kauffman said he'll likely move to reduce the nonsmoking area around the entryways to businesses in Goshen from 15 feet, as is, to eight feet to match the state law.
IN THE COUNTY
Outside Elkhart and Goshen where no local smoking laws have been enacted — in Elkhart County's other locales and unincorporated areas — the new state law would have more impact, at least theoretically.
But Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder hasn't heard any grumbling. The pertinent signs have been placed at county offices, he noted.
Hannon said many companies outside Elkhart and Goshen already had smoking rules in place, ahead of the state law.
“The trend has been to go no-smoking whether by mandate of local government or on your own,” said Potuck, the anti-smoking official. A “good part” of companies in the county, he said, already have no-smoking polices.
Reporter Dan Spalding contributed to this story.
Smoking law signs available online
The Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission has samples online of the sort of signage required per the state's new anti-smoking law. They can be downloaded and printed.
Go to www.in.gov/atc. The website also has more information on particulars of the new law.