Monday, May 18, 2009

Rural Wisc. bars worried about new smoking ban

The Wisconsin legislature approved a statewide smoking ban in all workplaces Wednesday to very mixed reactions from patrons and owners of bars, which will face their first smoking restrictions. Julian Emerson writes for the Leader-Telegraph in Eau Claire that in Chippewa County, pop. 60,456, some residents are angry at the state's intervention.

"You go into a bar in Wisconsin, and there's going to be smoke," John Gullickson, 78, left, told Emerson while enjoying a cigar with a group of friends at the Albertville Tavern. "In this state, taverns and smoking go together." (Photo by Steve Kinderman)

Many larger cities in the state have adopted smoke-free policies, and Emerson reports that nearly 40 local governments, including Eau Claire, have passed their own anti-smoking ordinances: "Meanwhile, in most of the state's smaller cities and villages, smoke-filled bars and restaurants are as common as springtime dandelions."

The ban, which will join 25 states that already have similar laws, will begin in July 2010, giving bar owners and patrons time to create outdoor smoking areas and consider the impact it will have on their business. "The people who smoke, they don't want this," longtime Albertville Tavern owner Patti Nowak told Emerson. "A lot of the bar owners are worried that people might decide to stay home and smoke there." (Read more).

UPDATE, May 20: In a column for Lee Newspapers, Richard Mial notes that urban legislators were more likely to favor the law and rural lawmakers were more likely to oppose it.

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