Protect Local Control

Ensuring Community Rights
To Pass Smokefree Ordinances

News Summary

Time is right for state smoking ban

Publication Date: 2007-11-01
  • Author:Andy Granias
  • Publication:UW Badger Herald, WI

Earlier this week, Senate President Fred Risser, D-Madison, attempted to fulfill this governing obligation by introducing a bill that would ban smoking from all workplaces statewide, including restaurants and bars. And just as a statewide mandate for restaurants and bars to provide public restrooms protects Wisconsinites from the health hazards of sloshing around in human excrement, a statewide ban on smoking in the workplace would protect the citizenry form the very serious public health concern of secondhand smoke...

It is also worth noting that many outside the Wisconsin Legislature are increasingly recognizing the public health risks induced by secondhand smoke, and are taking action with statewide smoking bans. If Wisconsin adopts Mr. Risser's proposed legislation, it will become the 23rd state in the country to enact a statewide smoking ban that includes bars and restaurants.

However, the idea has met some opposition, primarily from the Tavern League and those concerned with a workplace ban that includes bars because of the "potential for economic losses." In fact, the market reality is that a statewide ban would actually level the economic playing field for bars that currently fall within one of the 33 Wisconsin municipalities that have smoke-free ordinances in all workplaces, including bars.

As the logic follows, municipalities that have enacted these ordinances run the risk of losing business to neighboring municipalities that do not have smoke-free ordinances. However, with a ban that encompasses all of Wisconsin, and with Minnesota and Illinois recently passing statewide bans, there is virtually no risk of Wisconsin bars suffering economic losses from potential patrons crossing the border--whether it is a state or municipal border--in order to be able to smoke inside a bar...

To be sure, the state must be cautious whenever it regulates private business. But when the regulation will maintain a necessary public health standard, has the potential to stimulate economic growth and meets the desires of the majority of consumers, the state has an obligation to act.