Wisconsin Governor Doyle recentlyÂ called forÂ a special session to pass a statewide smoking ban (amongÂ other things). I support one, but only as long as it is discussed and debated properly.
There is a lot of anti-smoking sentiment in the state, but there are also those that feel that their rights are being trampled. I’ve been on both sides of the debate. I smoked for 14 years, and quit almost 3 years ago. Although I can no longer stand the smell of cigarette smoke or odors, I also experienced how difficult it is to quit. I’ve seen many others struggle to quit. I don’t agree that the first amendment allows people to assemble peacefully for the sake of smoking… I never visited a bowling alley just because I was a smoker (I did it to bowl). But the reality is that smokers still have the right to choose to smoke… as much as I have a right to bitch about how much they reek (don’t get me wrong; I also complain about those that bathe in perfume).
With passage of the cigarette tax increase in the recent budget, I am still murky on the intent of the Legislature and the Governor. My hope was that the extra revenue would be used to help smokers quit if they asked for assistance. If the state passes a smoking ban, it needs to consider helping smokers that want to quit, ideally with the increased revenue that smokers are now forced to pay per pack.
If the state is going to pass a smoking ban, it should do so now. Here are provisions that I suggest are included:
- Ban smoking in all restaurants,Â public buildings,Â retail establishments, and workplaces. Period.
- Exempt public parks’ outdoor areas… there is plenty of ventilation. However, ban smoking within any enclosed structure that has a roof, including pavilions. If littering on park grounds or golf courses is a concern, provide ashtrays.
- If a county or municipality already has an ordinance that bans smoking in public places, it remains in place. If it is stronger than the state’s, then the local ordinance’s provisions override the state’s. If it is lacking, then state law supersedes.
- Allow taverns that haven’t already implemented a ban to phase in the new ban over a period of time. As a consumer, I think three years is reasonable. I’m sure tavern owners feel differently. I used to visit a tavern that didn’t allow smoking on the first floor, but instead had a separate room upstairs for smokers.
- Make smokers stand at least 15 feet from a public entrance. If the purpose of the smoking ban is to reduce health issues for non-smokers, what good is it for them to walk through a cloud of smoke?
- If any business experiences hardship, consider an exemption. However, the hardship must be the direct result of the smoking ban, not poor management decisions.
- Exempt tobacco retailers. Cigar and pipe tobacco shops also have a right to stay in business.
- Provide tools for people to quit smoking. Quitting smoking is hard, period. As I stated earlier, the state is now collecting more revenue through the cigarette tax increase.
By using some common sense and remembering the intent of the law, I think the state can pass a reasonable law that accommodates most parties. The goalÂ should be for public health, not to force people to quit smoking. As much as I dislike smoking today, I stillÂ realize the realities of what smokers face daily.