As Iowa bureaucrats work feverishly to place of the long arm of government into private businesses with a statewide smoking ban set to take effect on July 1, it is time to examine ways to deal with what will be a radical cultural change in many shot-and-a-beer small town taverns that dot the Iowa landscape.
We don't have complete details yet on how many elements of the ban will work. But with what we know, here are some suggestions for smokers (and those looking to continue to do business with them) on how to handle the ban.
1. Head west (for another year).
The Nebraska Legislature has passed a statewide ban similar to the one in Iowa. But Nebraska gave its businesses some time. You can smoke legally in bars in Omaha and other places west of the Missouri River in Cornhusker country until June 2009 -- almost a year after the Iowa ban goes into effect.
2. Take your anger out on Gov. Chet Culver, Big Brother Democrats and Turncoat Republicans.
To be a one-issue voter for the rest of your life is crazy. But the smoking ban is an example of effete urban Iowans monkeying around with the small businesses of rural Iowans. If it's smoking today, what's next for government intrusion into small businesses? Will we go the way of New York City and ban certain fatty foods to the point where chicken-fried steaks must be served without gravy?
With statehouse races in the fall, smokers and those who don't like the creep of big government into Iowa life should send a message by voting against smoke ban supporters. Better yet, contribute to their opponents. The ban was generally a Democratic brainchild and product but some Republicans jumped off the Bridge Over The River Common Sense on this one, too.
3. Pick up a second (or third) vice
Casino floors are remarkably -- but predictably -- exempted from the ban. Add gambling to your smoking addiction.
4. Take advantage of "smirting"
Combine the words flirting and smoking and, presto, you get "smirting." When you see an attractive guy or gal forced to leave the bar for a smoke, step outside yourself. You may get 5 to 10 minutes to make your case for a date (or something else) as said object of desire huffs down a nicotine fix. This is already very popular in Chicago where a ban went into effect Jan. 1.
5. Let the state pay for your smoking cessation therapy
The Iowa Department of Public Health's tobacco control division uses revenue from taxes on smokes to fund counseling for smokers. You can get several free sessions, and Bonnie Mapes, director of Tobacco Use, Prevention and Control, says the counselors will discuss root causes of smoking -- including family matters and childhood problems that may have led to the addiction.
"They will talk to you about all the issues with smoking," Mapes says.
6. Start a private club or a patio bar
The language on both of these possibilities isn't exactly clear but there would appear to be some angles for starting a club (as long as its sole purpose isn't to skirt the ban) or developing an outdoor area at a bar that could hold loyal smoking clients.
7. Drink at home
No worries about OWIs. Cheaper. Cleaner bathrooms than at bars. Watch what you want on television.
8. Welcome To Missouri
There is no ban in th Show Me State and St. Louis is loads of fun in the summer.
9. Hang out in Latino businesses
In the Latino culture tattle tales are not tolerated. And having folks rat out other folks is the way the state expects to see this ban "self-enforced."
10. Just violate it and see what happens
Questions remain about how this ban will be enforced. There are graduated fines associated with the ban for businesses and customer-violators. Take your chances until you get hit with a fine ...