The Iowa House has endorsed what’s touted as "compromise" anti-smoking legislation. The proposal would ban smoking in most public places, including bars and restaurants, but smoking would be permitted on the gaming floors of the state-licensed casinos.
Representative Tyler Olson, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, was among the proposal’s key backers. "Follow-up studies in areas that have passed this type of legislation have shown decreases in admissions to emergency rooms for heart attacks and other illnesses and conditions that result from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke so we can actually solve the problem," Olson says.
Representative McKinley Bailey, a Democrat from Webster City, called it a flawed plan and voted against it. "We’re going to give out-of-state corporations whose CEOs who live in Las Vegas, Nevada, a competitive advantage over mom-and-pop establishments across the state of Iowa, owned by Iowans who have lived here and paid their taxes their entire life as they try and make ends meet," Bailey says. "We’re going to say it’s OK to smoke on a casino floor owned by Harrah’s but not in a bar owned by Larry & Kay Ross."
Representative Cecil Dolecheck, a Republican from Mt. Ayr, agreed. "This could be very detrimental to some of our small restaurants and bars in rural Iowa, many of those independently-owned, privately-owned all of them. In many cases the only person who operates that establishment is the bar owner himself," Dolecheck says. "I think he should have the opportunity to decide what type of clientele he wants to have in there."
Representative Mike May, a Republican from Spirit Lake, was a no vote, too. "I have a real philosophical problem with paying homage to the casinos here and suggesting to the people of the state of Iowa that casinos are more important than the health of people," May says. "Now if we really believe that the health of Iowa citizens and workers is a valuable thing, then we don’t make compromises like that."
Only two House members argued in favor the smoking ban during the 20 minutes of debate. Representative Phil Wise, a Democrat from Keokuk, had asked for the exemption for casinos when the bill started out in committee. Wise called this latest version of the bill "historic" and he voted for it. "Now I, myself, am a former smoker. I also watched tobacco shorten the lives of both my parents, so it is personal with me that we take a stand and do the right thing for the general public of Iowa," Wise says. "This is much, much greater than an economic issue. This is a life and death issue."
The proposal now goes before the Iowa Senate for consideration.