Year-old statewide smoking ban results in mixed bag of reactions
A year after a smoking ban takes hold in Wisconsin, Janesville area bars and taverns are adjusting to the new law. President of the Rock County Tavern League and owner East point Sportz Pub Sharon Hoskins says she still has a lot of regulars who smoke. Kyle Geissler reports. You can read more in Tuesday's Janesville Gazette.
IF YOU GO
What: Rock County Youth2Youth first anniversary celebration of Wisconsin’s Smoke–Free Air Law.
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, July 3.
Where: Beloit Snappers Ball Park, Pohlman Field, 2301 Skyline Drive, Beloit.
Details: Contact Debbie Fischer, Rock County Y2Y director, (608) 365-1244.
JANESVILLE John Belsky has been smoking since he was 18.
So the 70-year-old Janesville man wasn’t happy when Wisconsin’s smoke-free law went into effect a year ago today and he had to start leaving his bar stool and stepping outside for a smoke.
“I’d rather just stay inside. But rules are rules, and laws are laws,’’ Belsky said while taking a drag from a cigarette.
East Point Sportz Pub bartender Dan Schultz, on the other hand, is enjoying the smoking ban.
“I think it’s fantastic,’’ he said.
He no longer undresses in his garage at the end of his shift to avoid taking the smell of smoke into his home.
Schultz said he feels healthier since the smoking ban went into effect.
“I have a little less coughing, and my eyes aren’t as itchy and irritated from the residual haze while working,” he said.
A UW-Milwaukee study found that bartenders across Wisconsin are feeling healthier, according to the American Cancer Society.
The study, which surveyed 531 urban and rural bartenders in the two months before and after the law took effect, found a 36 percent reduction in smoking-related respiratory health symptoms including wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and sore throats.
Debbie Fischer, lead agency coordinator for the Southwest Alliance for Tobacco Prevention, headquartered in Beloit, said some of the March study results surprised her and parts didn’t.
“I was because I didn’t expect that kind of response so quickly. I wasn’t because other states have found this happening throughout the nation when the smoke-free air law passed,’’ she said.
Another study released in December by the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, Madison, reported that air quality in Wisconsin restaurants and bars improved by more than 92 percent after the smoking ban went into affect.
The study analyzed air-quality data from 214 bars and restaurants where smoking was allowed in 41 counties throughout Wisconsin before and after the ban.
“After the law was enacted, more than 97 percent of the restaurants and bars tested had ‘good’ or ‘satisfactory’ air quality,” the study reported.
The results didn’t surprise Fischer because she and some alliance members helped conduct some of the air quality studies.
“After being in the bar before and after, I could not believe the difference,’’ she said.
Since the smoking ban went into effect, reports of a potential violation have dropped from 205 the first month to 43 10 months later, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Fischer is notified by the state agency about violations in Rock, Green, Grant, Lafayette and Iowa counties.
As of June 1, there were seven reports of noncompliance in Rock County for the year, Fischer said.
“I think that is amazing,’’ she said.
She knows some people aren’t compliant.
“But I still don’t think there’s many. The majority of the people—establishment owners and patrons—really are following the law,’’ Fischer said.
Sharen Hoskins, owner of East Point Sportz Pub, said the new law has been “fairly positive” for her business.
“That’s because I spent time and money—$24,000—to build a nice, smoking area to accommodate smokers, who thank me daily. My patio paid for itself in the first year, so it was a good investment. But going into it, I didn’t know,” she said.
As president of the Rock County Tavern League, Hoskins knows some businesses are not happy with the smoking restriction.
“In general, the majority of the tavern league members are opposed to this. There are tavern owners still upset due to the clientele they have lost and the strictness of the law,’’ she said. “We didn’t want it but are over it. It happened, and we follow the law.’’
Hoskins said her business increased over the winter even though patrons had to go outside to smoke. The bar’s new smoking area is heated.
“We drew in extra smokers because we have such a nice patio,’’ she said.
Hoskins other taverns in the league without legal smoking areas reported business was down 10 to 35 percent over the winter.
“Some have really struggled,” she said.
T0 REPORT VIOLATIONS
To anonymously report a violation of the smoking ban, go online to wibettersmokefree.com or call 1-800-667-6653.
A person in violation of the law may be fined $100 to $250, depending on the municipality.
A person in charge of a restaurant, bar or private club who violates the law may be fined $100. The first violation requires a warning, and the maximum daily fine is $100 regardless of the number of violations.
PROVISIONS OF THE LAW
Wisconsin Act 12, which went into effect July 5, 2010, states all Wisconsin workplaces, restaurants and bars will be 100 percent smoke free.
The law prohibits smoking in most indoor public places and workplaces in Wisconsin, including public buildings, bowling centers, restaurants and taverns.
The law is enforced to guarantee everyone protection from second-hand smoke.
The final version of the legislation allows local governments to retain most of their local authority in legislating smoking restrictions; however, Wisconsin Act 12 preempts local governments from applying stricter ordinances in outdoor areas of businesses, such as patio seating areas.