Apparently, the wife of the Governor of Iowa was caught smoking in a government car:

The issue arose Wednesday morning, when a Des Moines Register reporter noticed Culver openly smoking in a sport utility vehicle the state provides to her family. The truck was stopped at a red light in downtown Des Moines. Culver was sitting in the passenger seat, with the window rolled down. A state trooper was driving.

Culver’s action violated the state smoking ban, which forbids smoking in most workplaces, including bars and restaurants. The ban also applies to employer-owned cars, and it specifically says no smoking is allowed in state-owned vehicles.

She requested a ticket and that was that. Nothing brings forth honor like getting caught, no? Whatever hesitations I have about smoking bans in public places, state-owned cars are certainly a place where it’s fair game.

I did enjoy this gem by an Iowa writer named John Carlson:

The loopy law does permit smoking in a hotel or motel room in Iowa, if said room is designated for legal smoking. But no hotel or motel may have more than 20 percent of such rooms in the establishment. But if you, Mr. Motel Owner, have 15 percent of your rooms as smoking rooms, you may not increase that to 20 percent. But you’re allowed to increase the number of nonsmoking rooms.

Unless there’s a full moon on the second Tuesday of the month, and then you have to go to the casino nearest your home to fill out the forms seeking an exemption. At least I think that last part was in there.

I have a printout of the law, but I stopped reading when the bizarre rules started making my eyes hurt.

I personally wish that they’d spend less time expanding the law and more time enforcing it. In our travels, it’s become not-uncommon to get non-smoking rooms that are clearly part-time smoking rooms and when confronted they don’t typically respond by apologizing and getting us a non-smoking room. Usually the negotiations involve paying more than we had planned so that we can get what he originally paid for because they don’t want to honor the Priceline (or equivalent) deal we got (specifying a non-smoking room) or the only rooms they have available are more expensive. Of course, maybe they’d do a better job of enforcing the law is people like us were to actually contact the appropriate authorities.

I always have mixed feelings about these things. The former libertarian in me is naturally resistant to regulating our private lives. Further, I find the piecemail approach a little bit insulting. Outlaw it or leave us be. However, the former libertarian in me says that the way that they’re going about it is probably the best way to cut back on smoking and make life easier on non-smokers while giving die hard smokers enough room to prevent a revolt.


Category: Hospital, Statehouse

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5 Responses to Smoking & Politics: Iowa Edition

  1. kevin says:

    As a fellow former libertarian and former smoker who sometimes still indulges, I am completely in favor of anti-smoking regulations. Smokers’ rights end where mine begin. Cigarette smoke poisons the atmosphere. Other forms of tobacco use, such as dip and chew, do not (assuming, of course, that the user properly disposes of their spit cups). As an occasional dipper, I find it outrageous that many places, such as public libraries, ban all tobacco use, rather than smoking. Dipping is more analogous to gum-chewing than it is to smoking.

    Just curious, Will. Since when are you a former libertarian, and why have you changed? I recently renounced my libertarian ways in response to the market meltdown. I’m sure that someone smarter than I am can explain to me how the recent economic doldrums are caused by something other than insufficient governmental regulation, but until that happens, I can’t reconcile my former libertarinn beliefs with reality.

  2. Webmaster says:

    As someone to whom concentrated cigarette smoke can provoke an asthma attack (potentially life-threatening), as well as having a couple family members who’ve been through the hospital as a direct result of their smoking and having watched my boss die of a directly smoking-related cancer, I’m all for anything that reduces the opportunities for people to smoke and to expose others to smoke.

    On the one hand, we need to go the route of increased regulation before an outright ban, if for no other reason than the economic impact would be a shock and scaling it back (getting former tobacco growers into other crops) would be good before eventually shutting down the cigarette companies themselves. On the other, I wish it went a lot faster.

    Of course, the libertarian in many of my friends screams bloody murder on the theory that laws trying to scale back cigarette smoking (and to some of the weirder friends, laws regarding drugs in general) also encourage the spread of nonsense laws like these and other inanity.

  3. Brandon Berg says:

    Will:
    Usually the negotiations involve paying more than we had planned so that we can get what he originally paid for because they don’t want to honor the Priceline (or equivalent) deal we got (specifying a non-smoking room) or the only rooms they have available are more expensive.

    Did you report this to Priceline (or equivalent)? With their reputation on the line, I imagine they’d be interested in hearing about this sort of misrepresentation.

    Honestly, I really don’t see any need for the government to intervene here except to enforce truth in advertising, especially in light of the fact that they’ve apparently failed to do even that much.

  4. trumwill says:

    Kevin,

    My trepidation with smoking bans is not so much on the part of the smoker, but with proprietors. I don’t have any philosophical issue with any establishment choosing not to allow smoking on the premises. Nor with the government banning smoking from any and all of its facilities. My problem comes with the government forcing a bar owner, restaurant owner, or other venue owner to prohibit smoking in his or her establishment. This is particularly true at venues that do not allow minors.

    In some ways, I think that the law has it backwards. They’re pushing the smokers out of the private club and onto the public curb.

    That being said, it’s hard to argue with the results. Making smoking less convenient doesn’t really have a public downside. That’s why I’m torn. I wrote a full post on the subject here.

    As for the libertarian streak, it started pretty shortly after college once I entered the real world and saw that freedoms do not distribute their costs equally, nor do they limit the costs to the person exercising those freedoms. There was no single moment. I just kind of drifted from “libertarian” to “libertarian-minded” to nothing at all.

  5. trumwill says:

    On the one hand, we need to go the route of increased regulation before an outright ban, if for no other reason than the economic impact would be a shock and scaling it back (getting former tobacco growers into other crops) would be good before eventually shutting down the cigarette companies themselves.

    The most obvious solution would be to legalize marijuana, cause there is no doubt whatsoever as to which four companies would be taking the lead on that.

    In any case, it’s certainly something that can’t be done overnight, and I don’t know that it’ll ever happen, but with ruthless efficiency they really are pushing it further and further outside polite company and into the disreputable classes to the point that banning it, a prospect that seemed outrageous a decade ago, suddenly seems a couple decades within grasp.

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