Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Opinion

November 25, 2013

FROM THE STATEHOUSE: Smoking debate heats up again

When Indiana lawmakers return for the 2014 session in early January, they’ll step into the highly charged issue of marriage equality as they debate the proposed amendment that would lock a ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions into the state constitution.

But it may not be the only heated debate over government intrusion into people’s private lives.

One of the legislative priorities of the influential Indiana Chamber of Commerce is the repeal of the state’s so-called “smoker’s bill of rights.”

In 1991, the Indiana General Assembly passed the legislation that forbids employers from turning away a job applicant just because he or she smokes.

The state smoking ban passed in 2012 outlaws smoking in most workplaces. But that 1991 smoker’s bill of rights forbids employers from telling their workers that they can’t smoke when they’re off-duty and away from the workplace. And it bans most employers from making smokers pay higher out-of-pocket costs for their health insurance.

In essence, the law says it’s none of your boss’s business if you’re using a legal product on your own time.

Indiana wasn’t alone in passing such legislation. After several companies, including Turner Broadcasting and Alaska Airlines, stopped hiring smokers in the mid-1980s, at least 29 states passed laws protecting smokers from what they saw as workplace discrimination..

The Indiana Chamber is the state’s leading pro-business advocate, and most of its legislative efforts are focused on less, not more, government regulation.

But Chamber leaders also argue that Indiana’s tobacco addiction — our smoking rate is fifth highest in the nation — is driving up healthcare costs for business and creating an unhealthy climate for economic prosperity.

A 2012 study by Ball State University’s Global Health Institute found Indiana’s smoking habit is costing the state’s employers nearly $2.6 billion in productivity losses and $2.2 billion in health care costs each year.

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Poll

Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

I think it’s a good idea to feed all the students free of charge
I think those who can afford it should pay for their school meals
I think all students should be required to pay for their school meals
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