Monday, June 02, 2008

Where The Butt Meets The Ashtray: Smoking Rules Released

The Iowa Department of Public Health today released sweeping smoking ban draft rules that more clearly define the boundaries of the recently passed statewide indoor snuff out and outline enforcement.

In essence the rules show Iowans where the butt meets the ashtray.

Department of Public Health officials plan for public input on the rules, to be used as written for some time to enforce the ban, which goes into effect July 1. The Iowa Smoke Free Air Web site will soon feature a tool by which visitors can submit comments on the rules. This function will be available by June 15th and will remain active until the formal public comment period ends August 6th. The rules may be amended based on the additional comments -- but any significant changes, such as an exemption for, say, indoor smoking in bars, would require legislative action.



As reported earlier by Iowa Independent, the draft rules, crafted with the intent of lawmakers in mind after after collaborative sessions involving the attorney general's office, permit smoking on outdoor patio area of bars but not restaurants. The distinction between bars and restaurants is generally clear, but in the gray areas, the IDPH says "bars" serve food that is pre-packaged and "incidental" to the business, and cannot make and sell food from scratch if a smoking patio is desired.

One provision that is sure to spark some controversy is that no distance requirement from doors are in place for outdoor smoking as in other places, such as Washington State.

Casino gaming areas (but not stand-alone bars), 20 percent of rooms in hotels, the Iowa National Guard, the state's Veterans Home and private residences are exempted from the ban.

Public health officials in the rules and in interviews with Iowa Independent have said the law is intended to be implemented largely through voluntary compliance and education. But the rules do say the IDPH may refer complaints regarding the law to "designated law enforcement authorities."

One element of the ban that may strike some as unnecessary -- since indoor public smoking is virtually eliminated -- is that all public places and places of employment where smoking is not allowed must post non-smoking signs that can be downloaded at the Smokefree Air Act Web site.

This post first appeared at Iowa Independent.com.

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