Howard County, Kokomo take on stricter smoking regulations

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KOKOMO, Ind. – Howard County and the City of Kokomo took a step toward more stringent smoking rules Monday night.

County commissioners passed an ordinance adopting smoke free regulations for workplaces and public places, including bars, private clubs and bingo facilities. The Kokomo City Council voted 5-4 to adopt a resolution to follow the county ordinance.

Both votes came in front of packed rooms and heated moments during the meetings.

“It’s just very concerning for my business,” Jeannine Welcher, owner of the Elbow Room, said. “I feel like about 75 percent of my customers smoke so I’m very worried that most of them will not come back.”

She and other bar owners shared their concerns about their bottom lines and their right to choose whether to allow smoking with county and city leaders.

“No smoking in bars, restaurants and public spaces. Basically giving providing for a safe work environment for employees and for those wanting to attend outdoor events,” Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman said.

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, there are 19 other communities in the state that have smoking laws banning it in bars, restaurants and workplaces.

“One of the biggest issues now there’s so many people that’s dying of second hand smoke,” said Willie Stroman, the chairman of Breath Easy Howard County.

Those in favor of the proposal said it’s not about putting people out of business but limiting the effects of second hand smoke.

“Smoke is the biggest issue and fighting for the workers giving them their right even though as mentioned a lot of them actually it’s a job a place of employment,” Stroman said.

Next, the City of Kokomo and Howard County will sign an inter-local agreement and then the ban will be finalized.

State and county health department data shows Howard County has a higher adult smoking rate than the state average.

You can read the full ordinance here.