Anti-smoking activists spoke out today criticizing the elimination of the top smoking prevention job in the state. The Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Commission passed a resolution urging the director of the Iowa Department of Public Health to follow state law and restore the full-time job.
Bonnie Mapes, the head of the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Division, left her job this week. Public Health Director Marianette Miller-Meeks eliminated the position, after the legislature slashed the tobacco division’s budget by 75 percent.
Critics say Iowa law requires a full-time head of the tobacco division. Commission member Herman Quirmbach, a state senator from Ames, spoke to the board by telephone. “There’s a law and everybody has to obey the law. I have to obey the law, Dr. Miller-Meeks has to obey the law and the governor has to obey the law,” Quirmbach said.
Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, echoed Quirmbach’s comments. “It’s just inconceivable that the director of public health would violate state code and eliminate a fill-time position under the disguise that it was a reduction in resources by the legislature,” Hatch said.
The commission’s resolution urges Miller-Meeks to continue youth prevention programs as required by law, in spite of the reduced budget. Miller-Meeks released a statement saying the attorney general’s office is advising her on how to appropriate the limited funds while complying with state law.