A bill that would ban smoking in most public places around the state — including the governor’s mansion — has cleared a House Committee. Representative Tyler Olson, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, suggests that "99 percent of Iowans" would be protected from second-hand smoke if the bill becomes law.
"Second-hand smoke contains 60 cancer-causing compounds including phermaldehyde arsenic, cyanide and carbon monoxide," Olson says. "…Cancer, respiratory infections and asthma are all effects of second-hand smoke." Olson argues the biggest beneficiaries will be those who are employed in bars, restaurants and other workplaces where they’re exposed to second-hand smoke daily.
"Food service workers have a 50 percent greater risk of dying from lung cancer than the general population," Olson says. "…The public health cost of smoking is also well-documented. The State of Iowa spends nearly $300 million on smoking-related illnesses through Medicaid." According to Olson, Iowa needs to join the growing list of states which are adopting smoke-free laws. "Twenty-nine states have passed some kind of smoke-free areas law including Minnesota, South Dakota and Illinois," Olson says.
The bill does stipulate that smoking would be allowed in private homes and vehicles. Representative Phil Wise, a Democrat from Keokuk, was able to get the House Commerce Committee to endorse the idea of allowing smoking in state-licensed casinos, too. "There is some tentative evidence that the casinos, particularly in eastern Iowa…are picking up business from across the…Mississippi River from Illinois, that in fact the smoking ban has harmed that specific industry in Illinois," Wise says. "And I simply did not want to put that (gambling) industry in Iowa in the same situation."
Representative Chuck Soderberg, a Republican from Le Mars, was able to get the committee to vote to declare that private residences owned by the state should be smoke-free areas. That would include the campus homes for the presidents of Iowa, Iowa State and UNI as well as Terrace Hill, the governor’s mansion, where First Lady Mari Culver, who is trying to kick the smoking habit, lives with her family. "The state really does need to lead by example. We have a lot of investment in historical buildings that I think we need make sure that we protect and preserve," Soderberg says. "I kind of go back to the Condition of the State (message in) which our governor made the comment that if you’re going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk."
The bill passed the House Committee Committee late Tuesday afternoon on a 16 to six vote. Representative Steven Lukan, a Republican from New Vienna, was one of the "no" votes because he says as a small businessman, he doesn’t want to offend long-time customers who want to light up in his repair shop. "I think that is an over-reach of government," Lykam says. "Government shouldn’t be forcing small businesspeople to enforce all these new laws and regulations." Lykam also objects to the part of the bill which he says would not allow a business owner to smoke in "his own private office."
Another bill making its way through the legislature would let cities and counties adopt anti-smoking ordinarnces rather than impose a statewide smoking ban.