There was spirited debate in the Iowa Senate today on whether the state should ban smoking in bars, restaurants, and other public establishments. By a vote of 30 to 20 the Senate approved a bill to allow local governments to pass their own smoking restrictions. They’re not allowed to pass ordinances more restrictive than state rules, under current law.

Senator Joe Bolckom, a Democrat from Iowa City, said local communities ought to be able to limit their citizens’ exposure to secondhand smoke. Bolckom says secondhand smoke is a Class "A" carcinogen. "It kills people. It’s deadly. And we’re going to give local communities the opportunity to make a deicison on whether their citizens will be protected." Critics argued the government shouldn’t intrude into people’s private lives, and Marshalltown Republican

Senator Larry McKibben mocked Democratic legislators for treating people like children. "I’m your friendly Democrat legislator," McKibben sayid. "And I’m going to protect you in every facet of your life." Opponents said local smoking bans would be bad for business, and people can make their own decisions about whether to patronize or work in a smoky environment.

Des Moines Republican Senator Pat Ward says smoking should not be a government decision. Ward says smoking bans "should be a business decision and not a legal mandate." She says customers have a choice where they spend their money, and employees have a choice where they work. Democratic Senator Senator Herman Quirmbach of Ames, who was on the city council when it passed a no-smoking ordinance later struck down by the courts, says cities should be allowed to restrict second-hand smoke. Secondhand smoke is a major public health threat, Quirmbach says.

"It kills 500 Iowans each year. It kills ten Iowans a week. It kills ten Iowans in each of our districts each year." The Senate turned down an amendment to exempt bars and casinos from the smoking ban. That puts them in conflict with the House, where members voted to allow local smoking ordinances but only if bars and casinos are exempt.