Cities move toward bans on smoking
Mary Bars will make a few sacrifices to smoke a cigarette. She likely will be forced to make more as more Iowa cities consider stamping out smoking in restaurants, bars and taxis.
Bars, 58, who drives a taxi in Cedar Rapids, said new policies prohibiting smoking are unfair for businesses because cash flow from smoking customers will decrease. The rules also are unfair for smokers, she said, who will have fewer choices of where to eat or will be unable to find a taxi that allows smoking.
Officials from several Iowa cities, including Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Decorah, have discussed smoking bans. Opponents of the bans say regulating smoking is a job for private businesses, not the government.
"People see this as another intrusion into the business sector," said Tim Borchardt, an Iowa City resident. "Take responsibility for your own health. A private business is not a public place."
This is only the beginning of the debate, anti-tobacco advocates say. They believe more Iowa cities will take action against smoking within the next few years.
"If the state of Iowa is serious about reducing tobacco use, these ordinances are going to have to go into effect," said Cathy Callaway, director of Tobacco Free Iowa.
Boone is the latest community where civic leaders are considering a smoking ban. The city is just west of Ames, the only Iowa city to adopt an anti-smoking ordinance.
Jim Turbes, Boone director of policy and administration, said city officials have asked the city attorney to research smoking bans. City officials were approached by an anti-smoking group, he said.
Most Boone residents are not eager to jump on the bandwagon, he said.
"I've had people come up to me and say, 'I'm not a smoker, but I think it should be up to the businesses to decide,' " said Turbes, who smokes.
The Ames City Council voted in March to ban smoking in most restaurants and some bars from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. The ban starts Aug. 1.
Ames Mayor Ted Tedesco said he knows people will watch his city closely to see if the ban succeeds.
"We don't mind being a leader," said Tedesco, who defended the partial ban as a compromise. "We're not like every other city in that we're heavily populated with university students."
Leaders in Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa, are also pondering a smoking ban. City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes is working to draft an ordinance.
Threase Harms-Hassoun, advocacy director for the American Cancer Society, credited Iowa City restaurant owners with voluntarily going smoke-free long before Ames officials considered a ban.
Bars, who lives in Cedar Rapids where city officials are on their way to banning smoking in taxis and limousines, said she chooses where to eat based on smoking options. If she can't smoke at a restaurant, she will choose taverns that serve food or stay at home.
"I'll go someplace where I can eat and smoke whether the food is good or bad," Bars said.
Harms-Hassoun said she doesn't care if the 23 percent of Iowans who smoke feel they are losing rights. Her organization's mission is to help people quit smoking.
"I see it as my right to be able to go into a restaurant and not be exposed to secondhand smoke," she said.
Some Iowa communities that have or are considering smoking bans:
Ames is the first city in Iowa to adopt a smoking ban, although it hasn't gone far enough for some critics. It goes into effect Aug. 1.
Cedar Rapids city officials plan to ban smoking in taxis and limousines. The ban will go into effect in June after two more official public votes. Some Linn County health officials also have discussed the possibility of banning smoking in restaurants. Health Department Director Keith Erickson said it could take years before such a ban is implemented.
Iowa City may consider enacting a smoking ban. Eileen Fisher, chairwoman of the Johnson County Tobacco Free Coalition, said her group approached the city council about a smoking ban a year ago. City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes said she will work on an ordinance draft this summer that will prohibit smoking in establishments where alcohol is less than 50 percent of sales.
Decorah city officials have talked about a smoking ban. The issue is expected to be introduced to the city council this summer.
Advocacy group Teens Against Tobacco have asked the Coralville City Council to ban smoking in the city's restaurants. Council members have not said whether they'll support the measure.