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News Summary

Pressure builds to pass statewide smoking ban, but powerful foe remains

Publication Date: 2009-01-13
  • Author:Steve Elbow
  • Publication:Capital Times, Wisconsin

When Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker stood in the way of a statewide smoking ban, his hometown of Weston took matters into its own hands, passing one of the strictest smoking bans in the state.

Weston is not alone. Since smoking ban legislation died last year, Eau Claire, Marshfield, Monona, Middleton, Fond du Lac and Dane County have decided against waiting for the state to take action and have joined 30 other Wisconsin communities that have passed smoking restrictions.

Smoking foes say the momentum will put pressure on lawmakers to pass a statewide ban this time around.

"You now have approximately 250,000 individuals who live in communities that are protected by local ordinances that have been passed since the end of the (legislative) session," said Eric Schutt, a lobbyist for the American Cancer Society of Wisconsin.

The flurry of smoking bans across the state poses a problem for opponents of the ban, most notably the Wisconsin Tavern League. Decker, going to bat for the league, let Senate legislation die last year after insisting on two provisions that were unpalatable to smoking foes: He wanted three and a half years to implement the ban, and he wanted local governments to be forbidden from enacting bans of their own during that time.

Advocates of the ban would have none of it, and they went on to support local communities interested in passing their own restrictions.