Thanks to Jeff for his guest post!
Dear Editor: When I read that Russ Decker, Wisconsin's new Senate majority leader, said that he hopes to revive the Healthy Wisconsin health care proposal, it made me scratch my head. In an earlier article, he was reluctant to back a statewide smoking ban.
How can anyone be for any health care plan, but not back a statewide smoking ban for Wisconsin? The two go hand in hand. One of the easiest ways to improve the health of people is to implement a complete smoking ban for indoor work areas, including bars and restaurants.
Last year, researchers at the UW Comprehensive Cancer Center released a study surveying 400 bartenders before and after Madison's smoking ban went into effect. Respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing were cut by 40 percent.
There are economic benefits to smoking bans as well. According to the Madison Alcohol License Review Committee, in the two years after Madison's ban went into effect, the number of liquor licenses increased from 332 in 2005 to 356 in August 2007.
Yes, there were 13 tavern closures, but according to a statement released by the Dane County Division of Public Health last March, lease issues, retirement of owners and law enforcement violations were also factors. In fact, of the 13 taverns, 10 have reopened under new management with new alcohol licenses.
Even the Wisconsin Restaurant Association supports a statewide smoking ban. This would make a level playing field for the entire state, especially since Minnesota and Illinois have passed smoking bans.
It's time for the state Legislature to listen to the two-thirds of our population that favor a complete smoking ban in Wisconsin and pass Senate Bill 150.
Jeff Larson is a resident of Middleton. His Letter to the Editor was published in the Capital Times on November 19, 2007.