Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division Administrator Lynn Walding says the Des Moines County ruling upholding the state smoking ban is a big win for the state. He says, “It certainly came out the way we had hoped it would, which is upholding the constitutionality of the Iowa law and the Smokefree Air Act…so for clean air, it was a big victory.”
Larry Duncan, the owner of Otis Campbell’s bar in West Burlington had sued, saying the state did not have the right to pull his license for letting people smoke in the bar. Walding says the bar has continued to operate while the court considered the case. Walding says the bar was given a stay that allowed it to continue opening with the provision they did not let tobacco be used on the premises. He says with this ruling, they now need to talk about sanctions. Walding says the bar has been operating in compliance during the stay, and they will take that into consideration.
Walding says this is a positive ruling, but may not be the end of the legal fight. Walding says the bar now has to decide if they will appeal the court decision. The lawyer for the bar owner told Radio Iowa he is reviewing the decision and is not yet ready to comment. Walding says the ruling in favor of the state will impact others. He says there are several other cases that have been put on hold while the Otis Campbell case was being considered. He say a lot of the other owners will try to decide what they are going to do, and the could also be impacted by whether or not Otis Campbell’s will appeal.
Walding says there were a lot of reports of people violating the ban when it began, but most establishments now comply. Walding says most establishments did comply with the law, and almost two years into it, and he says most of the public is enjoying the benefits of the law. He says the enforcement numbers have “just fallen off.” One of the key arguments in the Otis Campbell’s case was that it is unconstitutional to allow an exemption to the law for state-licensed casinos.
The district court ruled: “It is clear that there is a reasonable basis for exempting casinos. Simply put, the State would lose too much money by banning smoking in casino gambling areas.” The court says that is a reasonable basis for exempting casino gaming areas from the smoking ban and that exemption does not violate the Federal Equal Protection Clause.
See the entire court ruling here: Otis Campbell’s ruling PDF
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller released this statement on the ruling:
“This is a thorough and thoughtful decision. It rejected multiple constitutional challenges to Iowa’s Smokefree Air Act and upheld the State’s authority to regulate smoking in public places,” Attorney General Tom Miller said.
“This is the first decision on the constitutionality of the Alcoholic Beverage Division’s enforcement of the Smokefree Air Act. It soundly affirms the State’s authority to reduce people’s exposure to dangerous second-hand smoke,” he said.
“This is a victory for the public health of Iowans. The Smokefree Air Act is well-accepted by Iowans, and it is welcomed by most Iowans. The decision is another milestone in establishing this good law.”
See more about the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division on its website.