There’s been a steep decline in the number of complaints about people smoking in public places around the state. A statewide ban on smoking in most public places took effect July 1, 2008. More than 3,000 complaints were filed with the state about people smoking in non-smoking zones in the first year.
But in the past four months there have been fewer than 350 complaints. Bonnie Mapes is director of the Iowa Department of Public Health’s tobacco use prevention and control division. “This is exactly the trajectory we were expecting. It’s exactly the trajectory we’ve seen in other states,” Mapes says. “This doesn’t surprise us. It pleases us.”
The Iowa Smoke-Free Air Act prohibits smoking in most public places, like restaurants, bars, sports arenas and nearly all places of employment. “Eighty percent of businesses that have received a first notice of potential violation have not gone on to receive a second,” Mapes says.
“So our emphasis on education, education, education; getting information out there; making sure if they’ve had one complaint that we get education to them, one-on-one, has worked.” While the vast majority of Iowa businesses are complying with the smoking ban, a few continue to ignore the law. At least one business has been accused of violating Iowa’s Smoke-Free Air Act nine times.