There’s been a dramatic reduction in the number of Iowa businesses that sell cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products.
Bonnie Mapes is director of the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Tobacco Use Prevention and Control division. She and her staff have been keeping track of the number of permits issued to Iowa businesses for the sale of tobacco products.
“In 2003 and 2004, we had about 5500 retail permits in the state,” Mapes says. “Then we saw with the passage of the tobacco tax a slight drop and then, with the passage of the Smokefree Air Act, we really saw a much larger drop.”
A $1 increase in the state tax on tobacco products went in the spring of 2007. The Iowa Smokefree Air Act took effect on July 1, 2008. By May of this year the number of tobacco retailers had dropped by about a third. Mapes says one reason for that significant decline is that the number of adult smokers in Iowa has dropped.
“We’re now down to 14 percent, which is one of the lowest smoking rates in the country,” Mapes says.
In addition, there’s been a 56 percent drop in “per capita” tobacco consumption in Iowa since 2006. “What that means is that not only do we have fewer people smoking, but the people that are still smoking are smoking less,” Mapes says. “And I think that is reflected in the fact that we have fewer people that are now selling because we have fewer people smoking.”
This past May about 3300 Iowa retailers had permits to sell tobacco products in Iowa.