Quirmbach’s 21+ Smoking Bill Dies

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A bill (SF 2016) introduced by Ames’ Democratic state Sen. Herman Quirmbach that would have raised the smoking age in Iowa to 21 has died. (Hawaii is currently the only state with a 21+ smoking law.)

Lobbyists for the bill included the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, YMCA, American Heart Association, and several other health organizations. Lined up against the bill were the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, the Cigar Association of America, the pro-vaping group Iowans for Alternatives to Smoking and Tobacco, and Dubuque’s Mystique Casino (casinos were — and still are, despite efforts to change things in recent years — exempted from the state’s 2008 Smokefree Air Act).

Last year, Quirmbach attempted to pass a similar bill to raise the smoking age to 19, partly in hopes of getting cigarettes out of the hands of more high school students who turn 18 before graduating and might buy smokes for younger students. He has reportedly said that he will likely reintroduce similar legislation, which would also apply to e-cigarettes, in 2017.

Quirmbach was a member of the Ames City Council in 2001 when it passed the state’s first restaurant smoking ban. The ordinance, and a similar one in Iowa City, was struck down two years later by the Iowa Supreme Court on the grounds that it superseded state law, but Quirmbach and other local anti-smoking advocates have repeatedly invoked it during later efforts, including their involvement in getting the Smokefree Air Act passed.

The Ames council last month passed an ordinance similar to the restaurant ban, but for e-cigarettes and in all public places like the state’s anti-cigarette law. The attorney general’s office doesn’t believe such ordinances run afoul of state law like Ames’ smoking ban did.


Correction: An earlier version of this post said Quirmbach reportedly did not plan to reintroduce similar anti-smoking legislation in 2017. In fact, the Des Moines Register reported that he does plan to do so next year.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.