Seven-time Tour de France Champion Lance Armstrong will come to Madison in a week to advocate for a ban on smoking in Wisconsin, his foundation announced Tuesday.
Armstrong, a cancer survivor, will speak with Gov. Jim Doyle at a rally at noon Tuesday, March 4 at the Monona Terrace, pushing for legislation currently in both houses of the Legislature that would ban smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants.
�He�s a great advocate, obviously a fabulous athlete, and we�re honored to have him come speaking about this bill,� said Allison Miller, a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society, one group in a coalition working on the legislation and hosting the Armstrong event.
Miller added Armstrong is lending his support for the legislation as part of his broader cancer advocacy, especially because smoking is the leading preventable cause of cancer.
�I think it obviously raises awareness around the state. There is a vast degree of public support,� Miller said. �Him coming to speak just reminds people that this is a really important issue for everyone everywhere.�
Carrie Lynch, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Weston, who is heavily involved in negotiating a compromise on the smoking ban in the Senate, is less optimistic about Armstrong�s impact.
�I honestly don�t think having a celebrity come makes much difference in the process at all,� Lynch said. �Legislators have to answer to the people who live in their districts, not Lance Armstrong.�
Smoking ban debate heating up again
An Assembly version of the smoking ban will get a public hearing today, with both sides of the issue expected to turn out in force.
�This is a piece of legislation that has wide bipartisan support,� said Scott Becher, spokesperson for Rep. Steve Wieckert, R-Appleton. �We believe that its time has come.�
Wieckert, along with Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison � who introduced the legislation in each house � are expected to speak at the hearing, in addition to various lobby groups on both sides of the issue, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Family Services and a representative of the University of Wisconsin�s Center for Tobacco Research and Information.
�We�re moving on a very fast track, and we�re very pleased from working on [CM1]�our Republican and Democratic friends on this,� Becher said.
Rep. Doc Hines, R-Oxford, chairs the Assembly committee hearing the bill today and said though the committee won�t vote on the bill today, he believes they have the votes to pass it out of committee next week.
�If we�ve got any chance with it at all, it�s got to be the same thing that�s gone through the Senate committee,� Hines said.
Lynch, however, said the prospects for the bill in the Assembly look grim.
�I�d be surprised if the Assembly passed [it],� Lynch said. �The speaker over there has made no effort to get this bill to the floor and has pretty much indicated he doesn�t want to deal with the issue.�
Progress in the state Senate on the smoking ban legislation has been slow, with negotiations breaking down again last week.
According to Miller, the coalition is generally willing to compromise with its opposition, which is mainly led by tavern groups.
�We�re certainly willing to compromise, but it�s about trying to find that balance, and there�s just some things you can�t give up,� Miller said.
Lynch said advocacy groups play an important role in informing legislation like the smoking ban, �however, if they dig in so far on one side of the issue and refuse to compromise, they do a disservice to the issue they�re working for.�
�If they don�t compromise soon and get the legislation passed this session, they�re going to have to start all over in 2009,� Lynch continued.
Study finds smoking bans haven�t hurt business
A report on the effects of smoking bans across the country by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group released Tuesday showed the bans they examined did not hurt local economies.
�What we find is that regardless of the size of the community or the type of the community, � the outcomes are consistent, and that is that smoke-free policies either have a neutral or positive economic impact when implemented,� said WISPIRG policy advocate Bruce Speight.The report also examined the effects of smoking bans already in place in Madison and Appleton, showing an increase in liquor license applications since the implementation of the bans.