Cedar Rapids Gazette
June 3, 2008
Draft rules outline smoking ban
by Rod Boshart
DES MOINES — The state Department of Public Health on Monday released the draft rules governing new, controversial smoking restrictions slated to take effect July 1 and launched a Web site where Iowans can provide feedback and get answers to questions.
Tom Newton, director of the health agency, said the proposed emergency rules — designed to protect Iowans' health by barring smoking in nearly all public places — are slated to get an informal review by a legislative panel on June 11 and come before the Iowa Board of Public Health later that day for approval.
The rules, which will have the authority of law when approved, clarify language not already defined in the legislation and outline how enforcement of the new law will take place, he said.
"The General Assembly voted to take a giant step forward for public health in our state this year," Newton said in a statement. "Since Gov. Culver signed the Smoke-free Air Act into law, IDPH staff, the Attorney General's Office and other partners have been working diligently to ensure that the legislative intent of this historic law is carried out through the accompanying administrative rules."
The draft rules are among the first resources posted to a new Web site, www.IowaSmokefreeAir.gov, set up by the department in accordance with the new legislation, Newton said. Information includes a list of frequently asked questions about the new state law and samples of signs that many Iowa businesses and governmental organizations will need to display beginning July 1.
Bonnie Mapes, director of the department's division of tobacco use, prevention and control, said the agency plans to conduct five or six regional hearings between July 22 and Aug. 6 on the proposed rules and hold conferences via the Iowa Communications Network to gather public input. The proposed rules may be amended in October based upon those additional comments.
Opponents of the new law contend it infringes on individual and property rights, and some owners of bars and restaurants are threatening legal action, but Mapes said the focus of the hearings and public input process will be on the rules — not the merits of the law.
"We're tasked with implementing the law and, as far as what's in the law, that's something that they'll have to speak to their legislators about," she said.
Provisions of House File 2212, signed into law by Culver on April 15, essentially prohibit smoking in any enclosed space, including places of employment or places of public use, and apply to a variety of outdoor locations. Exceptions include tobacco shops, private residences, personal motor vehicles, certain commercial motor vehicles, the Iowa Veterans Home, and gaming areas of state-licensed casinos.
Unlawful smoking carries a $50 civil penalty for violators. Owners or operators of a restricted location that allows smoking in violation of the new law could face a fine of up to $100 for the first offense, up to $200 for a second violation within a year, and up to $500 for each subsequent violation within one year.
"The smoke-free air act was written to protect over 99 percent of Iowa's workers and public places from the scientifically proven harmful effects of secondhand smoke," said Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, the bill's House floor manager. "The draft regulations released today by the Iowa Department of Public Health honor the intent to protect as many of Iowa's workers and public places as possible."