Protect Local Control

Ensuring Community Rights
To Pass Smokefree Ordinances

Press Release

Wisconsin Legislature Considers Eliminating Smokefree Workplace Laws

Bill Would Roll Back Important Public Health Protections
Publication Date: 2005-06-23
BERKELEY, Calif., June 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Smokefree workplace laws scheduled to take effect July 1st in Appleton and Madison will be wiped off the books -- along with dozens of others already in effect or being considered in cities like Milwaukee -- if state lawmakers pass the misleadingly named "Smokefree Dining Act" in the next few weeks.

Far from making Wisconsin's restaurants smokefree, the proposed "Smokefree Dining Act" (identical bills Assembly Bill 414 and Senate Bill 202) would actually eliminate smokefree dining in Wisconsin. In addition, the proposal would allow smoking in virtually all worksites statewide, and also "preempt" or take away any option for cities to address local secondhand smoke concerns in the future.

"It's outrageous," said Bronson Frick, Associate Director for the non-profit group, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights. "It would take Wisconsin back to a time before the mountain of scientific evidence linked occupational exposure to smoke with a huge range of diseases and premature death. Today we know that the earth isn't flat and that secondhand smoke kills. Everyone should have the right to breathe air free of tobacco smoke in their workplace."

"Secondhand tobacco smoke remains one of the leading causes of preventable death in Wisconsin, causing suffering for many families and workers. This bill, if passed, would be a huge victory for Big Tobacco -- perhaps their greatest legislative victory in the United States in the past several years. Wisconsin residents should urge their lawmakers to vote No on the Big Tobacco Protection bill. Wisconsin's public health laws should be guided by science, not by tobacco lobbyists."

"Local communities should have the right to consider smokefree workplace protections if that's what those communities want. This isn't rocket science. Cities across the country, from New York City, to Laramie, Wyoming, are passing strong smokefree laws to protect workers and residents from secondhand smoke. Wisconsin is way behind the curve on these health protections, but it is even more shocking that if they pass this bill, they would be headed in the wrong direction entirely," Frick added.

Health policy experts point out that state-level proposals for cutting citizens and local governments out of the smoking debate is a common tobacco industry tactic that has been used in other states.

"We know from the once-secret Philip Morris documents turned over in lawsuits that stripping away local control on smokefree air is the tobacco industry's top legislative priority," said Frick.

"Tobacco companies prefer fighting public health measures like smokefree workplace policies at the state level, where they have more lobbying influence over the legislative process and are more likely to succeed in killing good health proposals."

"Philip Morris's documents show that that the company is well-aware that smokers who want to quit find it easier to do so when they work in a smokefree environment," he said. "Big Tobacco wants to keep people addicted and their cigarette profits up."

A study published in the May 2005 issue of the medical journal Circulation found that even short-term exposure to secondhand smoke can cause life-threatening changes to a nonsmoker's circulation system.

"The effects of even brief exposure to passive smoking are often nearly as large (80 to 90 percent) as chronic active smoking," according to Dr. Stanton Glantz of the University of California, San Francisco and one of the study's authors.

"It doesn't take much to cause big effects," Glantz said. "If you already have compromised coronary circulation and go into a smoky environment, there is a substantial increase in your risk of an acute event (such as a heart attack)."

In light of mounting evidence linking short-term secondhand smoke exposure to increased heart attack risk, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning in 2003 urging all people at risk of heart disease to avoid all enclosed places where smoking occurs.

Nationally, over 4,600 municipalities now have smokefree workplaces by local or statewide law. About 35% of the U.S. population now lives in an area with smokefree restaurants by law (including any bar areas). Wisconsin is now considered one of the smokiest states in the U.S., with under one percent of the state's population having the right to smokefree workplaces or indoor public places, but more cities, including Green Bay, Oshkosh, and Milwaukee have considered stronger smokefree policies in recent months.

Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights is a national member-based non-profit dedicated to protecting people's right to breathe smokefree air in enclosed workplaces and public places.

Additional Resources:

Philip Morris company documents on preemption and workplace restrictions:

Philip Morris Preemption Strategy Map 

Source: Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights