Anti-smoking advocates celebrate in Indianapolis as bars go smoke-free

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Anti-smoking advocates celebrated Friday as approximately 300 bars and taverns in Indianapolis went smoke-free. The strengthened ordinance took effect at 6 a.m.

"Today will go down in Indianapolis history. Today, we join hundreds of communities across the United States that protect all workers in bars and taverns," said Lindsay Grace, a spokesperson for Smoke Free Indy.

The change expanded Indianapolis' 2005 smoking ban that covered most workplaces to include bars, all restaurants, bowling alleys, hotels and nursing homes.

"She realized that just because she had her diagnosis, she had a strong voice and she had a story that needed to be told," said Mara Hoberty, an anti-smoking advocate who stood with Smoke Free Indy on Monument Circle Friday afternoon.

Her mother, Alice Curry, lost her battle with lung cancer last year. The 66-year-old non-smoker had lived and worked in cigarette smoke for years. After her diagnosis, she became an anti-smoking advocate.

"I couldn't let her voice die," said Hoberty.

City leaders also joined the group downtown to celebrate the ban that has sparked some controversy and criticism. Fourteen lawsuits have been filed mostly by bar owners who are calling the ban unconstitutional.

"The feedback I've gotten from multiple attorneys at this point is universal. The lawsuits out there do not have merit, and they will not be successful," said John Barth, a City-County Ccouncilor.

Keith O'Reilly, who got a special visit from Smoke Free Indy Friday as they took to the streets, said the ban was inevitable, and he does not plan to fight it. In fact, he is also making his patio non-smoking.

"A good 80 percent of our customers are happy about it," said O'Reilly.

"People always talk about the statistics, but they also need to realize this is personal for everyone involved," said Hoberty.

The Indianapolis Department of Code Enforcement is responsible for checking to make sure the bars are in compliance with the strengthened law.

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