Bettendorf’s Ross’ Restaurant reacts to Smoke Free Air Act 10th anniversary in Iowa

BETTENDORF - As Iowa gets ready to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Smoke Free Air Act, a longtime restaurant like Ross' knows all about its challenges and opportunities.

Some things never change, like Ross' familiar neon sign.

"It's the iconic sign for the Quad Cities," said Ross' owner Cynthia Ross-Freidhof, on Friday, June 29.

Other things, like the smoking policy in Iowa restaurants and bars, change a lot.

"It didn't smell very good," recalled Alexis Hughes.  "It wasn't fun.  It wasn't enjoyable.  I couldn't really even enjoy my food with the smell of the smoke."

Hughes started working at Ross' at age 15.  It was just before the era of smoky restaurants ended in Iowa.

"I can't stand the smell," she continued.  "I have a daughter, and I definitely don't want her in the restaurant when there's also smoking."

Back in 2008, Ross' worried about losing smoking customers.  It feared that Iowa's Smoke Free Air Act would snuff out business.

"Oh yes, absolutely, we were concerned about it initially," recalled Ross-Freidhof.

That year, Illinois and Iowa became the 22nd and 23rd states to go smoke free.

Experts say it's a factor in reducing cigarette smoking among teens and adults while encouraging others to quit.

"It's kept some young people from ever starting to smoke," said Kim Mills, Scott County Health Department.  "They don't see it as a widely practiced social norm."

By cutting exposure to second hand smoke, a non-smoker like Alexis Hughes really notices the difference.

"I think it brings in a lot more people that didn't want to be around the smoke," she said.

As for the business, it just keeps serving classic diner food to regulars and visitors at 2297 Falcon Avenue in Bettendorf.

"I don't think we lost very many patrons having that law," Ross-Freidhof concluded.  "We were really glad to see it come in."

With benefits for staffers and customers, it's a change for the better at Ross'.