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COLUMN: Adjusting to the smoking ban

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By STEVE DAVISSON
District 73 State Representative

Several new Indiana went into effect July 1 regarding public health. This was a popular topic of discussion this past legislative session, and it’s important for everyone to be aware of the changes Indiana is making.

Among the list of public health legislation that was passed this session, the Indiana General Assembly approved a statewide smoking ban.

I’ve received a lot of questions and concerns on this topic that I’d like to address. Although I personally oppose smoking and understand the health hazards of first- and second-hand smoke, I voted against this legislation because I believe it is a violation of our liberty. I support the principles behind the law, but I believe it should be left up to each individual business to decide whether or not to allow smoking in their establishment.

However, the bill gained the support it needed to pass into law, and regardless of personal opinion, we must all abide by the law, which now prohibits smoking in public places; in enclosed areas of a place of employment; and within eight feet of the entrances to public facilities and places of employment. Smoking remains permitted in certain gaming facilities, cigar and hookah bars and fraternal, social and veterans clubs, tobacco stores and bars and taverns.

I’ve been presented several questions regarding the use of signs in restaurants and bars, and would like to clarify what the new law has to say about it. Establishments are required to post signs at public entrances that read, “State Law Prohibits Smoking Within Eight Feet of this Entrance,” or something similar. In establishments where smoking is still permitted, signs must read, “WARNING: Smoking is Allowed in this Establishment,” or something similar.

Another new law our community should be aware of is Senate Enrolled Act 223, which says health-care professionals are no longer required to work full-time in a health-care shortage area, or rural area, for one year in order to be eligible for repayments of student loans from the Indiana Health Care Professional Recruitment and Retention Fund.

I supported this law because it will not only increase the number of health professionals who are eligible for repayment of their student loans, but it will also increase the number of physicians who are willing to work in rural areas.

In the past, the Indiana Department of Health has had problems getting physicians to work in the area for a year before they are eligible for student loan repayment, but the new law will allow physicians to agree to work in a rural area for a year and be eligible for loan repayment immediately.

For more information on either of these new laws, or for a complete list of new Indiana laws, please visit www. in.gov/legislative/reports/ 2012/ 2012GOV.PDF.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or input by calling (317) 232-9509 or by sending e-mail to H73@in.gov.

Davisson represents portions of Perry County in the Indiana House of Representatives.