Madison City Council members met Tuesday to discuss passing a bill that would further restrict smoking and tobacco usage in the workplace and in public areas.
Advocates touted the bill’s merits; however, some alders remain unconvinced.
Sandra Smith, Advocacy Chair for the Tobacco Free Dane County Coalition, was one of the three speakers who contributed to the meeting.
Smith said the coalition supports the bill, which states that 25 percent or less of all building entrances must be smoke-free.
“The coalition is involved with advocacy … supporting smoke-free places for those who choose not to be smokers themselves,” she said.
However, Ald. Jean MacCubbin, District 11, said the proposed ban goes too far.
“I detest secondhand smoke — but this is government overkill,” she said, citing examples of private offices rented by employees themselves and small businesses where clientele rarely visit the office.
“The issue is heavy-hand government and this is heavy-handed.”
Taku Ramsan, a Madison resident for seven weeks, disagreed with MacCubbin, lauding the progressive policy.
“Where I’m from, we’re way behind in smoking policies,” Ramsan said. “I have asthma and at times it was horrible. I’m excited to be in a city that’s moving forward.”
The bill would allow hotels and motels to keep designated smoking rooms, but it would restrict smoking in public lobbies and meeting rooms.
This is not enough, according to Ramsan, who spent her first month in Madison living in a motel.
“There was secondhand smoke in a smoke-free room … It is impossible [for ventilation systems] to stop exposure. When the public is exposed, there are health risks,” Ramsan said. “Thanks for being the first [city] in the state to do this.”
Though smoking rooms would still be allowed, hotel and motel restaurants would be required to maintain non-smoking areas. The bill applies to smoking and other uses of tobacco. This provision was met with some opposition and confusion from those council members present.
“Why chewing tobacco?” Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said. “I see students in the Law Library with it all the time. If a mechanic in a garage is spitting into a cup, how does that affect anyone? Chewing tobacco is a disgusting habit, but this is going too far for the city of Madison.”
Alders in support of the bill mentioned the health risks involved for those who have to clean up after chewing tobacco users.
Although the bill faces some opposition on the council, Ira Sherall, a Madison resident, said 80 percent of the Madison community supports the smoking bill, which, if passed, will make Madison the 233rd city in America to have such a policy.
Sherall said common areas of apartments should be included as designated restricted smoking areas, and tobacco retail stores, which would be exempt from smoking restrictions, be more clearly defined.
Ald. Linda Bellman, District 1, suggested some alterations as well. She said the bill’s focus should be younger children and teens, who are more at risk for addiction to cigarettes than adults.
The council members unanimously decided if the bill is passed next Tuesday, it will go into effect on Jan. 2, 2002. Employers are required to notify workers of any changes 90 days before this time.