State releases smoking ban business rules

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Business owners, get your "no smoking" signs ready - and your rulers, too.

Under Iowa's statewide smoking ban, owners affected by the new law must post the signs at every entrance and make sure they're at least 24 square inches.

The requirement is among several draft rules released Monday by the Iowa Department of Health. The rules are the state's first in-depth explanation about what Iowans can expect when the ban begins July 1.

In a 13-page document, the department details how the ban will be enforced and exactly what places will be smoke-free. The rules still need approval from he state health board.

"Right now we're concentrating on education," said Bonnie Mapes, director of the health department's division of tobacco control. "We're getting information out there to the businesses."

The Legislature passed the smoking ban last session, prohibiting smoking in most public places. The ban affects restaurants and bars but provides exemptions for casinos and other areas such as the Iowa State Fairgrounds and workplaces that offer quit-smoking classes.

Mapes calls the ban a "self-enforced system." Anyone found smoking in a prohibited area must be asked by the owner to either stop or leave the area. The public can also file complaints with the state by calling a phone number or Web site required to be on the "no smoking" signs.

Those caught violating the ban - smokers or business owners - could be fined. However, Mapes said it's up to law enforcement to take action.

Some restaurant and bar owners are fighting the ban.

At least five public hearings will be held across the state for Iowans to comment or suggest changes. Any adjustments would be made by October.

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