The Iowa House has endorsed a broad ban on smoking in nearly all public places around the state. Smoking would still be allowed in casinos as well as members-only VFWs, American Legion and AmVets halls, but smoking would not be allowed in Iowa bars, restaurants and other businesses that’re open to the public.
Representative Tyler Olson, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, was the bill’s main advocate during debate. “There are very few times when we really consider legislation…truly historic measures that better the lives of the citizens of Iowa,” Olson said. “Today is one of those days where we can take a step forward for public safety and improving the public health of all Iowans.”
Republicans were the only ones to voice objections to the bill. Representative Lance Horbach, a Republican from Tama, ridiculed the idea of banning smoking in Main Street businesses, but still allowing it in the state’s casinos. “And you wonder why they call us politicians instead of legislators,” Horbach said.
Representative Olson, the bill’s floor manager, said his vote count showed the bill wouldn’t pass unless casinos were exempted. “I believe that 99 percent is better than zero,” Olson says. “…Progress over perfection.”
Representative Mike May, a Republican from Spirit Lake who runs a resort in Okoboji, said it was ridiculous to stipulate that smoking should not occur within 10 feet of the entrance of a business, as the bill would require. “That’s impossible. It’s impossible. We’ve set a standard that is impossible for people to adhere to and the business community out there ought to be screaming to high heaven,” May said.
Representative Dave Heaton of Mount Pleasant was among the Republicans who objected to the idea of banning smoking in tractors and combines that are owned by a corporation and used by a farmer’s employees. “I don’t think we have any business telling them what they should do…on their own property,” Heaton said.
After more than four-and-a-half hours of debate, the bill passed on a 56 to 44 vote. Representative Mark Smith, a Democrat from Marshalltown, was among the Democrats who voted for the bill. “Over time we’re going to see that more and more people support the ban on smoking and that it is going to improve the health of Iowans,” Smith said.
Representative Walt Tomenga of Johnston was one of 11 Republicans who voted for the bill. “It will reduce smoking in our state. It will prevent young people from starting to smoke,” Tomenga said.
The legislation must also pass the Iowa Senate in exactly the same form before it goes to Governor Culver for his consideration. Culver has indicated he would sign a smoking ban into law.