Gov. Chet Culver said he would support extending Iowa’s workplace smoking ban to include casino floors if he succeeds in winning a second term by defeating Republican Terry Branstad in the Nov. 2 election.
“I think that’s the logical next step,” Culver told reporters in touting progress Iowa has made in combating smoking during his first term as governor during a discussion of the health-care initiatives he would like to pursue if given a second, four-year term by Iowa voters.
Culver said the smoke-free workplace law he signed in 2008 is among the nation’s most comprehensive but he said it made “common sense” to prevent exposure to potential harmful second-hand smoke for all Iowa workers. “I know that Iowans are also very upset about the exemption that was carved out for those casinos and a lot of people were wondering why that was.”
Culver noted that about 80,000 Iowans have been able to quit smoking as part of the state’s cessation programs and he said revisiting the smoking ban in gambling areas of casinos would be “a natural place to go” in promoting better health.
Speaking at a Statehouse news conference with Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, Culver pledged to maintain the progress Iowa has made in expanding insurance coverage to 57,000 more Iowa children, expand mental health parity to include substance abuse and other diagnoses, as well as “do all we can to conquer cancer” by expanding screening and prevention programs.
“We will fight to give Iowa a healthier future by continuing to invest in advanced medical research, expanding mental health parity, and addressing the shortage of health care workers, especially in rural areas of our state,” Culver said.
Kennedy, whose late husband and Culver’s father were friends and played football together at Harvard University, praised the Iowa governor as “trustworthy, sincere, compassionate and dedicated to public service” who shared the Kennedy family passion for health-care reform.
Tim Albrecht, spokesman for the Branstad/Reynolds campaign, accused Culver of mischaracterizing Branstad’s position on stem-cell research. He said the former GOP governor seeking a return to Terrace Hill for a fifth term on Nov. 2 supports adult stem-cell research but opposes human cloning and “believes an ethical boundary should be drawn.”
Branstad also wants to “carefully review” proposals to expand mental-health parity to ensure it wouldn’t raise insurance premium costs for employers during a time of recession, Albrecht said. The former governor also would support a smoking ban in casinos.