Anti-smoking activists predict the state will soon have a law that prohibits smoking in restaurants and other indoor places, but legislative leaders don’t agree. Dan Ramsey of the American Lung Association of Iowa says it’s time to make all workplaces in Iowa smoke-free. “Almost every day you hear about…other states having more and more smoke-free environments,” Ramsey says. “I think people are really starting to get a handle on the real damage that tobacco causes our society…as well as the health and human costs.”
Ramsey thinks Iowans are getting tired of being forced to breathe other people’s smoke and see loved ones die from tobacco-related illnesses. Ramsey predicts that within five years, Iowa will have a law declaring that all Iowa workplaces should be smoke-free. “As long as we can keep the tobacco company lobbyists from getting in and messing that kind of bill up, I think we’ve really got a good chance of getting this in the next four or five years.”
Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames, has been trying without success to undo a Supreme Court decision that prohibits cities and counties from enacting anti-smoking ordinances that are tougher than state law. The City of Ames had passed an ordinance barring smoking in bars and restaurants in the college town. Quirmbach says 95 percent of the restaurants in Ames are still voluntarily complying with the ordinance even though they don’t have to anymore. “What we learned from our experience (in Ames) is that businesses just don’t suffer. There are a lot more customers who prefer the smoke-free environment and it’s much better for the workforce,” Quirmbach says.
But the leaders in the Iowa House and Senate are not pushing for any smoking restrictions. Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti, a Republican from Ankeny, doesn’t know of a single piece of anti-smoking legislation that’s percolating through the process. “I haven’t even seen any (anti-smoking) bills come across my desk at this point,” Lamberti says. The statehouse is smoke-free, however Senate Co-Leader Stewart Iverson of Clarion smokes in his own private office.