Officials with the Iowa Department of Public Health are trying to put together a plan to implement and enforce the statewide smoking ban that begins July 1st. The department’s tobacco use, prevention and control director, Bonnie Mapes, says they’ve already had hundreds of calls about the ban.
"My favorite question so far has been can I smoke in my fishing boat on the lake in the state park? Those are the kinds of questions were getting where people are looking at the law thinking that it probably covers a lot more than it may end up covering," Mapes says. Some of the questions have yet to be answered, as Mapes says it all hinges on how they define public grounds.
State Representative Tyler Olson, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, helped write the law creating the ban and says he’s not worried about getting a good plan in place. Olson says he is confident the state will come up with a reasonable and practical rules so that they don’t have issues of not being able to enforce the law, or have an "unworkable" system where violations are handed out left and right. Olson the definition of public areas will determine the parameters of the law.
Olson says: "We’re not talking about not being able to smoke in an entire state park or in a state campground. What were talking about is not being able to smoke in a building on public grounds and then some kind of defined perimeter around it which would then be the public grounds determination." Olson doesn’t expect the state rules to be the standard used by everyone.
Olson says the state rules are just a base level of regulation, and local governments could go further. Olson says while local governments cannot set smoking policy for private businesses, they’ve always had the right to ban smoking in city or county parks — so they may make rules that are tougher than state standards. Olson says the same is true for universities and community colleges.
The University of Iowa is moving ahead with a campuswide smoking ban that even includes the parking lot of Kinnick Stadium. U-I president, Sally Mason says even if the state’s definition of public grounds would allow smoking on some parts of the campus, she’s unlikely to change the university’s policy.
"I’ve been asked some tough questions like what about the golf course and I quite frankly have assumed that the golf belongs to the University so it would too be under the campus wide smoking ban," Mason says, "but let’s see what the legal experts say and whether or not any leeway and whether or not we have enough demand or outcry we want to make any exceptions at all -right now I’m not thinking about any exceptions that’s not the direction were heading.
Some Iowa businesses may also take a tougher stand and ban smoking in their parking lots and company courtyards. For example, Principal Financial Group in Des Moines only allows smoking in designated outdoor areas. Mapes says the Department of Public Health realizes there’s going to be some confusion in the early going, that’s why they will focus more on education rather than confrontation.
"In other words you do not have squads of tobacco police out roaming the streets trying to catch violators," Maps says, "this a complaint driven system so if someone calls in and says they see smoking is occurring in their workplace then we will investigate that complaint and it happens differently in different states but oftentimes what happens is education is the first step and that’s what we’re going to focus on." Mapes and the committee hope to present their rules for implementing and enforcing the smoking ban to a legislative review panel by mid June.