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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Seeing through all the smoke

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Barbie Keith (left) and Shelly Tanner (right) are enjoying their morning cups of coffee and cigarettes at the VFW Club recently. Both women are against the proposed smoking ban that would eliminate smoking inside Iowa businesses. Photo by Mike Leckband
The bill proposing a statewide ban on smoking was approved by the Iowa House last week, and a modified version was approved by the Iowa Senate on Wednesday.

In the House version of the bill, smoking would be banned in virtually every workplace in the state, as well as in restaurants, taverns, and other facilities open to the public. Exceptions are made for casinos, and for private veterans clubs such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, but only when those facilities are not open to the public.

The measure, approved last Tuesday, would not regulate smoking in private homes, hotel rooms that are designated as smoking rooms, or outdoor workplaces, except for areas that are designated as smoke-free.

A person caught smoking could be fined $50, and a business owner who allows smoking could be fined $100.

The effects of a statewide ban on smoking will be felt by many area businesses. The Chronicle Times conducted a survey of local businesses which currently allow smoking in their establishments.

Several local restaurants already have a non-smoking policy, so those businesses were not contacted for this survey.

The following question was put to the Cherokee business owners: "How do you think the statewide smoking ban - if it's passed - will affect your business?"

"It will probably put me out of business in the long run. Most of the people that come here, the majority, are smokers," said Ben Jobe of Jobie's Pastime Lounge.

Donnie Bright, owner of the Brightside Lounge, said, "I think that it should be up to the bar owner. We pay all the bills around here. I don't smoke myself, but it's like prohibition, and it will affect the little guy. It's not going to be good for my business."

"I'll close my doors, unless I can make one or the other place into a private club.

Eighty percent of my customers smoke, and the other 20 percent know that the others smoke and they come in anyway," said Jim "Archie" Bunkers, owner of both Archie Bunkers Place and The Other Place.

"It probably won't affect us at all. We already have no smoking on Sundays," said Pam Schuver of Danny's Sport Spot.

Shelly Tanner, manager of the Cherokee VFW Club, said "I will lose business. The majority of my customers smoke, and I won't have any customers if it goes to non-smoking"

Carey Hetrick, owner of Carey's Restaurant, estimated that 25% of his customers smoke, and said that he would lose $45,000 to $50,000 a year if the smoking ban becomes law. Hetrick feels the proposed ban is "totally discriminatory," as casinos and private veterans' clubs would be exempt under the bill approved by the House. Hetrick also feels the smoking issue "shouldn't be any of the state's business. It should be up to each business."

Lynn Waggoner, owner of the Pub, feels a new law wouldn't affect his business that much, but also says that if his business were still "just a bar," rather than a restaurant, it would be problematical. Waggoner has established a Smoke-Free Monday for the past several months, but doesn't feel that has made any big difference in the amount of business the Pub has done.

"Fifty percent (of customers) don't like it and fifty percent think it's great," he said.

Waggoner himself quit smoking four years ago, and says he'd prefer his business be smoke-free, but hasn't pushed it, because - unlike some other restaurants, his business is not part of a large corporation whose head office has mandated no smoking, and he needs customers. He said that customers haven't really complained about second-hand smoke that much, largely, he feels, because his restaurant has enough open space and good enough ventilation. "They can see when they come in if anyone is smoking, and they just find a place to sit where it isn't going to bother them," he said.

Tim Gaydo, owner of the Cherokee Bowl, has studied the issue of smoking in bowling alleys thoroughly, thanks to the concerted efforts of the bowling industry. They have a considerable data on their website, www.bpaa.com, showing the states which have passed anti-smoking legislation, and the results. Gaydo says at least 26 states currently have no smoking laws, and he feels that such laws in Iowa are "inevitable."

The afore-mentioned website has a survey which alley owners can download and present to bowlers at their alleys. Gaydo said the initial reaction of his customers when he presented the survey to them was almost a panic, and he had to assure them he was not telling them that they could no longer smoke there, but he was giving them a "heads up" of the situation, and the probability of a no-smoking edict coming down.

Gaydo says the surveys he has received back from his customers show that he would likely lose 35% of his business if his customers are no longer allowed to smoke in his establishment. He said studies have shown that local control (city-wide) over smoking have generally been less effective than state-wide bans, but his preference would be allowing each business owner to set his or her own smoking policies. Gaydo said there have been occasions when he has declared his alley to be smoke free; for example, when he has students from the local schools come bowling as a group.

Gaydo feels that if a smoking ban is signed into law in Iowa, he would probably lose some of his business, and have to adjust to the change in an effort to negate his losses.

Jackie Wittkop, owner of the Gasthaus Restaurant, feels that one consequence for her business if such a law is passed is that she "will probably lose all my employees (because they are all smokers, as is she)." As for her 'regular customers,' Wittkop said, "some smoke, some don't."

She feels that the smoking policy of each business should be left up to that business, because the business owner is the one who makes the payments on the building and pays the taxes on the business.

"If non-smokers want to go somewhere else to eat, they can. Smokers don't have a choice," said Wittkop.

The version of the bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday eliminated the exemption for casinos and veteran's facilities. The bill will now go back to the House for review, and if the two branches can't agree on a version to send to the governor, the bill will then go to a committee to adopt a final version to send to Culver.

When the bill is finally signed into law, it is not

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