A Republican in the Iowa Senate is raising questions about an Iowa Department of Public Health’s ad campaign promoting a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. Senator Paul McKinley, a Republican from Chariton, says he heard the ads on the radio and TV and was "somewhat concerned" when he learned a state agency was advocating for what McKinley considers a "partisan" position.
Legislators are considering a bill that would ban smoking in public places in Iowa. "To find out that the taxpayers have funded almost $600,000 worth of ads to lobby the government really threw me for a loop to be honest with you," McKinley says. McKinley suggests having the Department of Public Health lobby for a public smoking ban in Iowa, something Democratic Governor Chet Culver supports, is like to having the Department of Revenue lobby for a big tax cut if a Republican were governor.
"Should state agencies be put in a position of using taxpayers’ money to lobby?" McKinley asks. "…While it may be lawful, I think goes right up to the edge and I think it is highly inappropriate." The ads feature employees in Iowa bars and restaurants talking about their exposure to second-hand smoke, and their desire to work in a smoke-free environment. Governor Culver defends the ads.
"I think that that campaign has, in fact, been very effective to educate all Iowans — young and old — about the health risks associated with smoking," Culver says. Culver credits the nearly 600-thousand dollars worth of advertising with helping to perhaps turn the tide in the legislature in favor of a statewide ban on smoking in public places.
"It’s overwhelmingly popular out there to do something about second-hand smoke," Culver says. Culver makes no apologies about using taxdollars to run those ads. "The Department of Public Health is charged with ensuring the health of Iowans, doing everything they can," Culver says.