Anti-smoking advocates lobbied at the state capitol Tuesday for a bill that would give cities the right to ban smoking in public places. The city councils in Ames and Iowa City banned smoking in restaurants but were trumped by the State Supreme court when it ruled the ban violated state law. Iowa attorney general Tom Miller won’t mind if the law’s changed to enable such a ban. Miller says we shouldn’t stand in the way of cities doing good things, adding everyone’s better off except the tobacco companies. But an attorney representing the tobacco company Brown and Williamson says it should be up to businesses to decide whether or not to allow smoking in their establishments. Charlie Wasker’s firm is the one that sued to have the no-smoking ordinance in Ames overturned. He says more than 7 out of ten restaurants already banned smoking even before the ordinance, and they should have the right to make their own business decisions. But Ames Senator Herman Quirmbach says most of those businesses were fast food chains, not sit-down restaurants. Quirmbach, a democrat, served on the city council back when the no-smoking ordinance was approved and says it eventually gained broad acceptance within the community. In fact he says 95 percent of the restaurants continue to abide by the ordinance even though it was struck down. That includes two of the ones who sued, which he says shows that even they didn’t lose money, and Quirmbach says they don’t have to empty ashtrays, clean, and wash wall and draperies as often, so they save there. But savings or not, Republican representative James Hahn of Muscatine, the chair of the subcommittee debating the bill, worries it’s too restrictive. If an owner wants to ban smoking, that’s fine, but he doesn’t like the government coming in and telling them. Representative Hahn says he will poll his fellow local government committee members to see if he should bring the bill up for debate.
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