Critics of Iowa’s Smoke-free Air Act say they’ll take their case to state lawmakers, hoping the 2009 Legislature will abolish or at least change the law.
Over a dozen small business people, most of them bar owners, sat through Tuesday afternoon’s meeting of the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee. Diana Heathcote owns the "All in the Family Raceway Bar" in Oskaloosa and she was upset the committee let the last batch of rules to implement the smoking ban go into effect.
"They’re not going to help and it’s bull," Heathcote said after the meeting. "I’m pissed." Another bar owner used even stronger language to rail against the law.
Representative Phil Wise, a Democrat from Keokuk, told the bar owners that was a "dumb" approach. "Attempting to change the (law), that means you need to get legislators on your side and insulting legislators and implying legislators are somehow corrupt if they support a smoking ban is not politically very smart," Wise said after the meeting.
Todd Shanno runs a bowling alley in Council Bluffs and when Shanno spoke to the committee, he suggested it was time to let cooler heads — from both sides — prevail. "Why couldn’t they get in a room and why couldn’t they come up with a law that’s practical and makes sense? That’s what we need," Shanno says. "I’m not against a smoking ban even though it’s hurt my business, but I think there are some things within the smoking ban that could be changed to make it easier on the small businessperson."
Peggy Huppert, an Iowa-based lobbyist for the American Cancer Society, expects some legislators to try to make changes in the smoking ban. "But the longer it’s in place, the more popular it will become to the point where it will become more and more futile," Huppert says.
Scott Gorman owns "Chesterfield’s Bar and Grill" in Fort Dodge and he plans to lobby legislators to change one rule so smoking would be allowed outdoors on bar patios. Gorman was surprised to get a letter from the Department of Public Health recently, telling him he was violating the anti-smoking law. "Never lit a cigarette in the bar, just ashtrays on the patio," Gorman says. The Department of Public Health rules specify that if food is made and served in an establishment, it’s technically a restaurant — and smoking is therefore banned on Gorman’s outdoor patio area since he serves fried and grilled food.