Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

November 26, 2013

MAUREEN HAYDEN: Indiana Chamber targets 'smoker's bill of rights'

Tobacco-free employment standards sought

(Continued)

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar called the smoker’s bill of rights “an intrusion into the rights of employers in making hiring decisions.”

“Holding smoking up to the same standards as we hold discrimination based upon race, gender, religion and ethnicity seems arbitrary and without justification,” Brinegar said.

That’s how the federal government sees it: It allows nicotine-free hiring practices because smokers aren’t recognized as a protected class under federal law.

It’s too early to predict the fate of a bill that would roll back smoker’s “rights.” The chamber backed the 2012 statewide smoking ban and lobbied hard for a more comprehensive law than what was passed.

The Republican chairman of the House Public Health Committee, Rep. Ed Clere of New Albany, hasn’t seen any proposed legislation yet. But as the gatekeeper to such legislation, he’s open to the idea.

“I appreciated the chamber’s stance on the statewide smoking ban, and I’m glad they’re talking about the need to continue to focus on reducing smoking in Indiana,” Clere said. “Indiana is one of least healthy states in the nation, and smoking is a big part of that.”

This is the second year in a row the chamber has targeted the smokers’ protection law as a top legislative priority. One thing the chamber knows: It can take a while for such legislation to percolate in the Statehouse. The statewide smoking ban bill was introduced six times in the Indiana General Assembly before it finally passed last year.

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for CNHI newspapers in Indiana, including the Kokomo Tribune. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

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