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Wisconsin is better smoke-free!

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By Jari Johnston-Allen & Maureen Busalacchi
June 28, 2010

People in Wisconsin are excited for the upcoming holiday weekend. Not just because the Fourth of July marks an important moment in U.S. history, but because this year the 5th of July marks an important moment in Wisconsin history—the day our state goes smoke-free.


Getting the smoke out of all Wisconsin workplaces, including bars and restaurants, has been a long time coming. Our state, like 27 other states that have similar laws on the books, debated the issue at length. In the end, an overwhelming, bipartisan majority of lawmakers cast their votes with public opinion in favor of a future with less cancer, less heart disease and less respiratory illness. Now, just days away from realizing that future, the Wisconsin public, its workers and its businesses are ready for the change.


For Heather Betsinger, a nonsmoking lung cancer survivor from Onalaska, July 5th will mark the first day she can go to any bar or restaurant without facing a cloud of roughly 60 known carcinogens that likely caused her cancer. Betsinger spent much of her high school and college years working in smoke-filled bars and restaurants. She knows going smoke-free will save lives.


It’s already saved Jackie Crum many nights of dealing with a scratchy throat, coughing and stinging eyes. Crum is a long-time bartender and manager at the Campus Pub in Wausau, which went smoke-free in April. Crum and owner Kevin Steinke say the change has been incredibly positive; they’ve attracted new customers while keeping the old and the employees who were, “really sick of the smoke,” are healthier and happier.


There have been similar positive reactions across the state at places such as Billy’s Lantern in La Crosse, The Red Mill in Stevens Point, The Bar in Green Bay, The Nomad World Pub in Milwaukee and countless others which have gone smoke–free early.


These bars’ positive experiences are backed up by numerous peer-reviewed economic studies all showing that smoke-free laws have no negative effect on business and in some cases improve revenue.


After all, roughly 80 percent of people in Wisconsin and nationwide are non-smokers, and getting the smoke-out opens businesses up to many more potential patrons. What’s more, bars and restaurants in Wisconsin are free to accommodate smokers outside; whether it’s building an outdoor patio or putting an ashtray outside, most smokers are already accustomed to stepping outside to smoke and will easily make the transition.


Yet the biggest change come July 5th won’t be seen outside as much as it will be felt inside. Patrons will breathe easier and have more choices; workers will be free to work where they wish without having to choose between their health and their paychecks; and Wisconsin will finally start enjoying improved public health right along with all its neighboring states.


In other words, starting July 5th, Wisconsin is better smoke-free!


By Jari Johnston-Allen is chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, Midwest Division; e-mail wisconsin.advocay@cancer.org or call (608) 662-7559. Maureen Busalacchi is executive director of SmokeFree Wisconsin, e-mail mbusalacchi@smokefreewi.org call (608) 268-2620.

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