Smoking rate declines in Iowa

I mentioned in this post that it’s been a full year since the Iowa Smokefree Air Act went into effect. The public smoking ban was one of the most controversial bills considered during the 2008 legislative session, and advocates praised the law’s success at a press conference this week.

According to a recent Iowa Department of Public Health survey, 14 percent of Iowans smoke. In 2007, IDPH research estimated the smoking rate at 19 percent. That’s a significant decline, suggesting that around one-quarter of Iowans who smoked in 2007 have since quit. The $1 a pack tax hike on cigarettes approved in 2007 was probably a major factor in this trend as well.

The overwhelming majority of Iowa businesses are complying with the smoking ban, according to a June 30 press release from the IDPH. A little more than 1 percent of Iowa businesses with employees (1,015 to be exact) have received a “Notice of Potential Violation” from the IDPH. Of those, approximately half are bars and restaurants. I’m not surprised, since bar and restaurant owners were the smoking ban’s most vocal opponents (despite research showing that smoking bans do not hurt businesses in the hospitality industry). For those who want more details on compliance with the Smokefree Air Act, I’ve posted the IDPH press release after the jump.

Although some Democrats were angry that the legislature took on this issue last year, I’m proud to have supported the smoking ban at this blog for all the reasons I listed here.  

IDPH Press Release — 6/30/2009

Compliance high in first year of Smokefree Air Act

Violation notices necessary for only 1 percent of more than 82,000 employers

Compliance with Iowa’s Smokefree Air Act is high among businesses during the law’s first year. According to preliminary numbers from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), only about 1 percent of Iowa’s more than 82,000 businesses subject to the Act have received a Notice of Potential Violation from IDPH since the law went into effect July 1, 2008. Notices are generated following a valid complaint from the public or inspector visit.

“As Governor, I am committed to protecting the health of all Iowans,” said Governor Culver. “The high level of compliance with the Smokefree Air Act means that we as a state are well on our way to achieving that goal. In addition, it demonstrates that the vast majority of employers in Iowa are abiding by this law, helping us create a brighter, healthier future for our state.”

Since July 1 last year, Notices of Potential Violation have been sent to 1,015 businesses with employees. Preliminary numbers indicate the top four business types for which a first Notice of Potential Violation has been issued are: bars and restaurants (53 percent); retail stores and service-based businesses (20 percent); private and member clubs (3 percent); government (3 percent); hotels and motels (2 percent). The remaining 19 percent of employers who have received a violation notice represent a wide variety of Iowa businesses. Final numbers of these and other indicators of compliance will be released in mid-July.

“I am happy to say that our enforcement efforts have been very effective during this first year of the Iowa Smokefree Air Act,” said IDPH Director Tom Newton. “The Notice of Potential Violation is primarily a tool for educating employers about what they need to do to come into compliance with the law. Of businesses who receive a first notice, 79 percent do not receive a second notice.”

Prior to the Iowa Smokefree Air Act, non-smokers who were exposed to secondhand smoke at work increased their risk of heart disease by 25 to 30 percent, while their risk of developing lung cancer was 20 to 30 percent higher. The law protects employees in more than 99 percent of Iowa’s businesses, making it one of the most comprehensive in the nation. For more information about the law or to report a violation, visit www.iowasmokefreeair.gov.

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