Members of the Iowa Restaurant Association have mixed emotions over legislation to ban on smoking in public places. The organization, which represents more than 5,000 bars and restaurants, is opposed to the ban. It also represents some of Iowa’s casinos, which are lobbying hard to be exempted from the ban.
Association president Doni DeNucci says that exemption would create an unlevel playing field for the rest of her members. "That’s why it’s difficult for us," DeNucci explained, "because we wouldn’t want to oppose an exemption that would benefit one segment of the industry, but it could be to the detriment to another segment of the industry."
DeNucci says Iowa business owners should be allowed to decide for themselves if they want to cater to smokers. "At the end of the day, if everybody is exempted out except the small independent restaurant, that is maybe in rural Iowa…trying to accommodate his clientele, that may be smokers – that’s going to impact his business negatively," DeNucci said. She claims that 80% of her members are already smoke-free, so non-smokers have plenty of choices.
Cathy Calloway is president of the Iowa Tobacco Prevention Alliance. She says casinos’ claims that their air ventilation systems protect against second hand smoke are bogus. "We know that the ventilation systems that are out there do not work," Calloway said. "They may clear the smoking haze out of the room, but they are not capable of removing the carcinogens that are in the air.
The U.S. Surgeon General has stated that and The American Society for Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers know that doesn’t work…there’s not a system out there." DeNucci and Calloway were guests on the Iowa Public Radio program "The Exchange."