Governor Chet Culver has signed the statewide smoking ban into law. "All Iowans will benefit from cleaner air," Culver said during a bill signing ceremony at the statehouse.
Culver called it a "monumental" initiative. "Today we are locking arms and putting partisan politics aside and joining together for one common purpose: to build a healthier Iowa," Culver said.
While the governor praised lawmakers from both parties who worked to pass the bill, he acknowledged it wasn’t universally popular. "I understand there are compelling arguments against this bill but the bottom line is this bill will save lives — plain and simple — and I am happy to sign it today," Culver said. "This bill also reflects a real commitment and compromise. It involved a lot of passion and practicality. It is the result of many hours of hard work and a genuine effort by all parties to find common ground on this difficult issue."
Several hundred smoking ban backers crowded into the statehouse rotunda this morning to watch Culver sign the bill into law. Dan Ramsey of the American Lung Association was invited to speak. "This has been a long time coming," Ramsey said, a declaration that was met with applause and a few whoops from the audience.
The new law takes effect July 1st and forbids smoking in bars, restaurants and other public venues. The governor says the effort to ban smoking in public places started in Iowa back in 1975, but as times changed state law changed. For example, in 1991 it became illegal for those under 18 to possess tobacco and in 1997 it became illegal to sell cigarettes in vending machines that’re easily accessible to minors. Last year, the state tax on cigarettes went up a dollar per pack. "And now we take the next essential step in keeping Iowans healthy. The goal is to make Iowa one of the healthiest states in the nation," Culver said. "…This is a bill for which the time has come."
Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge said a smoking ban is part of an overall effort to give Iowans more "tools" to live healthier lives. "This is a great day for health care and it is a great day for Iowa," Judge said.
Once the new law takes effect smoking will still be allowed, however, on the gaming floors at the state-licensed casinos and at the Veteran’s Home in Marshalltown. Plus, the way the law is written allows smokers to light up on the outdoor patios of bars and restaurants.
You may listen to the entire bill signing ceremony by clicking on the audio link below.