Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


State ponders smoking ban

The debate over a potential statewide smoking ban is resurfacing following the approval of an Appleton referendum banning smoking in public establishments Tuesday.

The passing of citywide smoking bans while a statewide proposal is in the works has spurred much discussion about whether such bans help or hurt communities.

Mainly, the opposition to city smoking bans is comprised of restaurants and bar owners who fear losing business.


"Generally, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association is opposed to local smoking bans," said Pete Hanson, director of government relations for the WRA.

But Hansen added the WRA is not necessarily against smoking bans in general, but rather in the way they are implemented.

"If there is going to be regulating of smoking in public places, it should be done on the state level, not locally," Hanson said.

He added that when bans are imposed locally, businesses in the region are at a disadvantage, as businesses in surrounding communities without bans may gain a competitive edge.

"The large percentage of the clientele who want to smoke can drive down the road to a different restaurant," Hanson noted.

So far, smoking bans similar to those in Madison and now Appleton have been enforced only at the local level.

But a statewide smoking ban was proposed last year and approved by the State Assembly in June.

Assembly Bill 414, which has yet to be voted on by the Senate, would be the first to enact a limited smoking ban throughout Wisconsin.

According to Mike Prentiss, spokesman for the bill's co-author, Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, AB 414 would create a single statewide smoking ban in restaurants and bowling alleys, but not in bars.

But even if the Senate approves a statewide smoking ban, state Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, said Gov. Jim Doyle would most likely veto AB 414.

Risser said that he himself also opposes the bill, adding it does not go far enough to protect nonsmokers due to its bar exemption.

"[A statewide smoking ban] is inevitable — a health question, if nothing else," he said. "It's unfair to ask people to work in a place with second-hand smoke."

He expressed specific concern for people whose only job opportunities are in restaurants or bars.

He added that Ireland, Spain and Italy have passed countrywide smoking bans, a trend reflecting a worldwide movement toward smoking bans.

Addressing the concerns of bar and restaurant owners, Risser said establishments will lose a little business initially, but he added that business will increase in the long run.

Risser said nonsmokers, enticed by the new, smokeless atmosphere, will be drawn to patronize businesses under such bans.

"When 80 percent of the public does not smoke, a good share of that percent will not go into places with smoking," he said.

Risser is currently working on his own bill that would implement provisions similar to Madison's statewide.

Hanson added that most restaurant members of the WRA have already gone nonsmoking voluntarily, realizing that the number of people who smoke is significantly decreasing.

"We support a concept of taking smoking out of dining areas in the state of Wisconsin," he said. "This is the first time we've been in favor of any kind of smoking ban."

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