March 19, 2008
Des Moines Register
Study: Particle levels higher in areas that allow smoking
By JENNIFER JACOBS
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
The air in Iowa bars and restaurants that allow smoking can contain as much as 17 times the cancer-causing particles as nonsmoking places, according to a new study by an anti-smoking group.
Iowa Tobacco Prevention Alliance, which is pushing for a statewide smoking ban, commissioned the study of the air quality at 21 bars, restaurants or casinos around Iowa.
On average, the level of fine-particle air pollutants was 122 micrograms per cubic meter, according to results released Tuesday.
The average level in the smoke-free places was 7.
That means the level was 17 times higher in the places with indoor smoking.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that the level of safe exposure is 15, the study results say.
Such particles are released by burning cigarettes, are easily inhaled deep into the lungs, and can lead to cardiovascular and respiratory disease, said Gary Streit, vice chairman of the Commission on Tobacco Use Prevention and Control.
State lawmakers are still wrestling with whether or not to pass any smoking ban this year.
John Eveland, who owns National Cigar Store in Waterloo, said a statewide ban would be discriminatory.
"Smoking is a legal, adult activity that does not impinge on the welfare of others," Eveland said. "If it did, government regulatory agencies like OSHA would step in, but they don't."
But one of the lead singers for rock band the Nadas, Jason Walsmith, told reporters at the Iowa Capitol Tuesday why he favors the statewide ban. He said when he stands on stage in front of 500 to 1,000 Iowans, the smoke tends to blow toward the musicians.
"You can just watch it envelop us," he said.
Half the band members smoke, but Walsmith doesn't. He said he has to nurse his voice back to health after a gig, and usually wakes up the next morning feeling miserable.
"It's painful. It's major congestion. My lungs hurt and I'm coughing up stuff I don't want to talk about," said Walsmith, who lives in Des Moines.
Joel Smits, 28, works at a restaurant/bar in downtown Des Moines that he declined to identify because his bosses oppose any smoking ban. Smits disagrees with them.
"There's people in our own state Legislature that refuse to accept the fact that it's hurting us," he said. "And that's unacceptable to me."
Last week, the Iowa Senate rejected a House bill that would have allowed smoking in restaurants, clubs and casinos during times in which only people 21 or older are admitted.
Today, the House is expected to vote on whether to accept or resist the Senate bill that prohibits smoking in almost all public places, including casinos and bars.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he expects the issue will end up in a special committee of lawmakers who will work out a compromise.
Reporter Jason Clayworth contributed to this article.