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Restaurant workers respond to new Indiana smoking ban

A controversial smoking ban passed by Indiana lawmakers went into effect Sunday, outlawing lighting up in state restaurants.

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A controversial smoking ban passed by Indiana lawmakers went into effect Sunday, outlawing lighting up in state restaurants.

The new rule, which was passed by the state General Assembly in March, prevents patrons from smoking up to eight feet outside of eateries. Bars, horse tracks, riverboats and tobacco shops are all notable exceptions to the law, but it has left some state restaurant workers musing about the future of their businesses.

“I believe more people will come in now because I see a lot of customers with [children],” said Francisco Ramirez, a busboy at Kennedy Cafe and Family Restaurant in Hammond. “They like it and I think this is much better for all of us around here.”

He said he feels better bringing his own children, who often eat at the establishment, into a smoke-free environment.

Ramirez said he did not think business would suffer due to the ban, adding that only one customer has openly complained about the law. He expects the patron to return “after one week.”

The rule has not been immune to controversy, however. One caveat prevents any smoking in a facility that will host children.

That prompted an American Legion post near Fort Wayne to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the state, accusing the ban of being too vague and a violation of Indiana’s equal protection clause. Particularly, the post said that the law does not adequately define what someone has to do to follow the law.

The state attorney general’s office is expected to deal with the case.

Back in Hammond, restaurant worker Shery Deem said she has heard mixed reactions.

“I think it varies. I don’t know because in the first place we have a lot of people who have left because of the smoke. They don’t want to be around it [...] especially people with their kids,” said Deem, a waitress at Hessville Restaurant and self-proclaimed smoker.

But she said she does not think business will start hurting anytime soon.

“A lot of people have been coming here for years because we’re cheap and we have good food,” she said.

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