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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Confusion abounds on smoking rules

Thursday, July 17, 2008

For government entities, the rules on enforcement of the Smoke Free Air Act that went into effect in Iowa on July 1 are still confusing.

Wally Miller, Jr., city attorney for Cherokee, informed the Cherokee City Council at their July 8th meeting that one clear requirement for the city is the need to post new signs at public areas where smoking is prohibited.

Greg Stieneke, city council member, said that money had been spent on new no-smoking signs at Gillette Park. However, these do not have the number (888-944-2247) or the email address (www.iowasmokefreeair.gov) for making a complaint as required by the new law.

Stieneke asked whether a label could be attached to the current signs in order to meet the requirement. Miller indicated that would be sufficient. He said that signs do not need to be expensive. Some cities are printing out signs on plain paper and laminating the ones that will be posted outside.

Almost all interior areas belonging to a city or county are designated as smoke free under the ban. An exception would be property rented out for residential use by an individual or family. Outside areas being used for a gathering to view entertainment such as at an amphitheater, stadium or an area in front of a stage that is in use is required to be smoke free. Areas with playground equipment are smoke free areas.

Not all outside areas belonging to the city are required to be smoke free. Campsites, trails and cemeteries are areas specifically named as areas that the state law does not require to be smoke free, although this is at the discretion of the local government entity. A city or county can still ban smoking in an area where the state does not prohibit smoking.

"I can see all the smokers gathering at the cemetery," Linda Burkhart, council member, joked.

Along with interior areas where smoking is banned, "the grounds" of a building where smoking is banned needs to be posted and smoking prohibited. However, there is no distance specified. It is not clear how far away a smoker needs to be from the Spring Lake Yacht Club or the playground at Spring Lake Park.

Another area that needs to be clarified is the enforcement mechanism. Miller said that currently, the Iowa Department of Public Health has named itself to be the agency responsible for enforcement but that will no doubt not be practical for the long term.

To provide clarification of what the law requires, state officials are currently working on administrative rules. "I can see what is coming, 500 pages of administrative rules to clarify 15 pages of legislation," Miller said.

For school districts, the requirements are simpler. Buildings and grounds of schools are all completely smoke free. What is new is a smoke free perimeter that extends beyond the school grounds and signs that give a phone number and email address for reporting violations.

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