The Iowa House may vote this week on legislation that would ban smoking in most public places in Iowa. The bill would allow smoking in casinos and V-F-W Halls, but would prohibit smoking in bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and other businesses open to the public.

House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines says momentum has been building for a statewide smoking ban.This would be the single biggest thing that I could do for public health,” McCarthy says. Some lawmakers advocate a different approach, giving cities and the option of enacting local anti-smoking ordinances, but McCarthy says that seems a little unworkable in metropolitan areas like Des Moines.

“If you have urban areas where you have Clive and Urbandale, Johnston, Ankeny…Windsor Heights, you have a situation where you could have businesses on opposite sides of the street having different rules which could create a competitive disadvantage for one business,” McCarthy says. “…The statewide ban seems to make the most sense for business.”

But House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City says the ban would hurt mainstreet businesses. “It’s a bill…that makes a real clear point that if Iowans want to go out and have a drink and a smoke, you can’t go your neighborhood bar anymore,” Rants says. “You’re going to have to go to a casino.”

Rants says a public smoking ban would be particularly hard on eating and drinking establishments along Iowa’s southern and western borders as folks would drive to Nebraska and Missouri to light up. The neighboring states of Illinois and Minnesota have enacted public smoking bans.