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10 years since Iowa’s Smokefree Air Act became law

It has been 10 years since the very controversial Smokefree Air Act was passed in Iowa.

The act virtually divided the state into smokers and non-smokers. Many Iowans felt their rights were being taken away, and bar owners worried business would decline.

On June 30, 2008, VooDoo Lounge in Cedar Falls celebrated one last night of freedom. Smokers took the chance to smoke one last cigarette inside the bar.

"A lot of angry people at the time. They felt like a right had been taken away from them," recalls VooDoo Lounge owner, Darin Beck.

Beck says initially the smoking ban changed the type of customers.

"I was a smoker so I can say this, we were pretty bullheaded. A lot of people chose not to go out for awhile because they were pretty upset about it," said Beck.

Bars across Iowa had to adapt. In 2009, one year after the ban, Chaser’s Pub in Waterloo had added an enclosed outdoor smoking area.

"It went down literally that next week. We went from needing two bartenders and two waitresses on weekends, to sometimes needing one bartender until 9 or 10 at night," said Chaser’s bartender, Dusty Sbiral, in 2008.

But Beck says smokers eventually came back and the smoke-free environment became a positive for business.

"If we could go back ten years in time and know then what we know now, we probably would have made the decision 10 years sooner; maybe 20," said Beck.

The clean air not only extended the life of equipment in bars and restaurants, but initially dropped the smoking rate.

From 2008 to 2009, the percentage of Iowans who smoked dropped from 19 to 14 percent.

 "I ended up quitting smoking as a result of the smoking ban because I am not going to stand outside in January in Iowa to smoke a cigarette," said Beck.

However, recent reports show smoking is back up in Iowa; with 20 percent of Iowans smoking in 2016.


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