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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Smoking ban to go national

Published: June 21, 2008 01:02 am
Smoking ban fight to go national

CLINTON — Those fighting to overturn the smoking ban in Iowa are
looking to band together with groups from other states and take the
fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Legislature passed the smoking ban last session, which prohibits
smoking in most public places. The ban affects restaurants and bars
but provides exemptions for gambling areas of casinos and the Iowa
Veterans Home at Marshalltown.

In April, the Clinton Organized Bar and Restaurant Association
announced plans to join forces with other bar and restaurant
associations and establishments across the state of Iowa to file an
injunction against the smoking ban. But, after learning that the act
includes a clause preventing any injunction from stopping the law
from going into effect, the group began investigating other avenues
to pursue.

During a recent meeting of the Clinton Organized Bar and Restaurant
Association, COBRA President Jon Van Roekel noted that he and COBRA
member Gary Sawyer met with "key players" on June 11 in Grinnell. Van
Roekel said several states are actively fighting the ban, but said
some are "coming to a wall." He said COBRA officials have decided to
forgo attempting to gain a level playing field at the state level and
intend to create a unified front against smoking bans by taking the
fight nationwide and declaring the matter a personal property rights
issue.

Van Roekel said COBRA members have contacted representatives of
groups involved in a smoking ban fight in nine states and have 11
more states to contact. He said that so far, all those contacted
are "on board" with making the smoking ban fight a national issue.
Van Roekel said the key objective is to band with groups from other
states to pool experience and information, as well as resources and
funding, because it will cost millions of dollars to take the issue
to the U.S. Supreme Court. He pointed out that the Supreme Court has
issued previous rulings siding with property owners regarding
personal property issues.

"They cannot tell you what you can and cannot do with your own
personal property within reason," Van Roekel said.

Van Roekel added that the Iowa smoking ban could be overturned by
another legislative vote. He said if four seats in the Iowa House of
Representatives can be overturned, or if incumbent Democrats could be
unseated by Republican challengers, a legislator could reintroduce
the issue and a new vote potentially could overturn the ban.

Van Roekel noted that currently, studies have not shown a positive
link between secondhand smoke exposure and cancer in a work-related
environment.

He said that if information attesting to that can be introduced in a
court of law, it would remove the foundation of the smoking ban
argument and the ban would be overturned. He stated that the only
information legislators considered in ruling on the ban was from
groups in support of the ban and remarked that Sen. Roger Stewart
refused to present opposing information. Van Roekel said some
Democrats who based their decision on information that was incorrect,
are now seeing negative personal impacts from their vote.

He advised the group that the Health Department is sending
information about the ban via e-mail, informing bar and restaurant
owners of their responsibilities regarding the ban. He said the
regulation stipulates that if an owner or staff sees someone smoking
illegally, they "should" ask them to stop. If the person continues,
Van Roekel said, the person "may" ask the smoker to leave the
building and "may" stop serving them. He said if the smoker continues
to refuse, the person "may" call police.

According to the draft administrative rules intended to supplement
implementation of the law from the Iowa Department of Public Health,
the primary goal of the IDPH is to promote compliance once the law
becomes effective by educating the public and business owners about
the Smokefree Air Act. Clinton Police Chief Brian Guy said no
intergovernmental agreements have been reached to get local law
enforcement agencies involved in pursuing violations of the smoking
ban as of yet. He said if the Clinton Police Department receives
telephone calls regarding smoking ban violations, complaintants will
be directed to call the Iowa Smokefree Act Helpline.
http://www.clintonh erald.com/ local/local_ story_173010202. html

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