# Iowa Smokefree Air Act

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.  

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Court case against smoking ban dismissed

After Iowa’s public smoking ban went into effect on July 1, 2008, a group of bar owners filed a lawsuit claiming the new law was unconstitutional. Last summer a district court judge denied the plaintiffs’ request to put a stay on the law while the court case was pending, and last week a different judge dismissed the case, according to a press release from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.

The Des Moines Register reported on May 12 that the case was dismissed after the bar owners decided to drop the lawsuit:

Brian Froehlich, of Wilton, is with the Iowa Bar Owners Coalition. He says the groups are redirecting their efforts and will support the bars that are going to court to protect their businesses.

It’s not clear from the Register’s story what the bar owners’ new legal strategy will be. I’m no attorney, but I would advise them to challenge the part of the Iowa Smokefree Air Act that exempts certain areas of casinos from the smoking ban. That seems unfair to other businesses in the hospitality industry that must comply with the ban. It also seems illogical until you remember that gambling interests have spent heavily on lobbyists and political donations to Iowa in recent years.  

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