Legislation to ban smoking in nearly all public places may be debated this week in the Iowa Senate. The bill was approved by the House last week. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says he feels strongly about the measure, especially after spending time at his favorite bar and restaurant in Des Moines.
"I see waitresses there — young women, pregnant — that don’t like working in a place where they’re exposed to lots of smoke," Gronstal says. Gronstal is a former smoke who had a three-pack-a-day habit until he quit in 2004. The bill which cleared the House last week includes some controversial parts, such as a proposal that farmers be banned from smoking in their tractors and combines if the vehicle is used by someone else — an employee or a volunteer on the farm, like the farmer’s family members.
Gronstal says he’s committed to finding a way to get the smoking ban passed in the senate. "It’s not about the state dictating personal choices. It’s about the state — just as we do in a host of other ways — making sure that workers on the job are protected," Gronstal says. However, the House bill does not include state-licensed casinos under the smoking ban.
The state’s racetracks and casinos argue they won’t be able to compete with the Native American casinos in Iowa if smoking is banned on their property. But some senators plan to try to restrict smoking to the casino floors and forbid it in the casino-owned bars and restaurants if other bars and restaurants in Iowa are required to go smoke-free.