Worse things than smoke?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

With great fanfare, Iowa's Indoor Clean Air Act went into effect in July, banning smoking indoors in nearly every public place in the state.

Two months later, smoking and nonsmoking Iowans are trying to come to grips with the short and long term implications of the law.

Smokers, who have now been forced outside, are still frustrated with the law, but are, by and large abiding by the ban. Communities all over the state, including Le Mars, are coping with the effects of moving smokers outside of buildings.

A natural byproduct of smoking, besides the smoke, is the remainder of the cigarette, commonly referred to as a "but." When people smoke indoors, ashtrays are used. Outside, it's a different story.

It was common before the ban as well as after the ban to see cigarette buts on sidewalks, near curbs, in alleys or any place where smokers congregate. Since the ban, the number of buts has increased to the point where some are concerned about litter and the appearance of smoking areas.

An entire cottage industry has arisen providing outdoor smoking urns, places where smokers can dispose of their ashes and cigarettes. These urns range in price from $50 to over $100, depending on size and the materials they are constructed from.

But, as the Le Mars City Council learned this week, simply placing one of these urns near the door may not be compatible with the new law, which specifies how far away from a building smokers need to be when smoking.

Some clarification will need to be given, and perhaps it might be a good idea to help downtown businesses band together to purchase similar styled smoking urns. Like anything else, if enough of a product is purchased at once, the price more than likely will come down.

There's no reason that this problem can't be turned into something that will make downtown more attractive.