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  • Editorial: Smoking ban creates new problems in the downtown
  Reg. Date 2011-08-17 11:27:37 Hit 5871

We couldn’t help but be amused by the rise in “electronic cigarette” sales in conjunction with Iowa’s smoking ban, that started July 1.

We wonder if it will play a part in solving our new problems: Smokers on the streets and the cigarette butts left behind.
If you haven’t heard of the electronic cigarettes, they provide the nicotine “hit” without burning tobacco, and the user exhales a water vapor instead of smoke. For now, it appears this gets around the smoking ban. No doubt someone will try to challenge it.
The electronic cigarettes allow ... hmmm, I guess we should call them “nicotine puffers,” to stay inside the restaurant and at their table. It is not hard to imagine that many will have to explain things to the proprietor nervous about tobacco police.
Since the smoking ban took effect, smokers have been seen outside of Herb & Lou’s and The Comeback, businesses that allowed smoking before the state said it was not up to them to decide who their customers should be.
Over the weekend, during the retreat for Main Street West Branch, this topic came up. Members especially noted the rise in cigarette butts on the steps of the Heritage Museum. How can Main Street address this problem? How can the City of West Branch? How can business owners?
It seems the first step might be to purchase a few exterior cigarette butt receptacles. Our first reaction is that the legislature probably had not considered this indirect unfunded mandate, but the restaurant industry pointed this out in the debate over this law, so it should be no surprise.
So who is going to step up and foot the bill for these ash cans? They run from $45 to $380 depending on what they’re made from and how nice you want them to look. When you’re placing them in a downtown lined with historic buildings, they ought to blend in as much as possible.
But what do you do about the sight of groups of people standing in doorways, smoking? When running scenic pictures of the downtown in an attempt to draw families from Hoover Park, that element is usually not part of an idyllic image.
Those electronic cigarettes, which run $80 to $100 to buy and about $5 for replacements that last the equivalent of two packs of cigarettes, might have a future in Iowa. However, we don’t see them solving our new image problems in the downtown.
And we don’t see the state offering any help, either.

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