More debates on statewide smoking ban

The state continues debating over the details of a smoking ban. The ban, if passed as intended, is to go into effect on January 1, 2009. Legislators in Madison are battling over whether or not to postpone the ban in taverns and restaurants.

The American Cancer Society recently sponsored a town hall meeting to discuss the impending statewide smoking ban, also known as the Breathe Free Wisconsin Act. Tavern League of Wisconsin representatives clashed with non-smokers and other business owners during that meeting.

The Tavern League reps stated that by implementing a smoking ban, we are taking livelihoods away from tavern owners. Proponents argue that they’d rather patronize a smoke-free establishment. One tavern owner even experienced business increase when her restaurant went smoke-free two years ago.

One quote really stuck out in my mind in the article. According to the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, Chippewa County Tavern League president Karen Anderson argued that statistics can be found anywhere. “They’re numbers arranged on a report to justify a cause,” she said. “These are friends, people, real-life people, who are going out of business.”

My response is: what about those that end up with respiratory problems, lung cancer, or other complications from being around second-hand smoke? Aren’t they real people too?

The Tavern League’s arguments have become the focus of the ban on the legislative floor in the state capital. Senator Breske, a former tavern owner, and Senator Decker have successfully stalled the bill on the senate floor; they’d like to postpone the ban to taverns and restaurants to January 1, 2011.

Here is my take on it: if the state is going to really push for an all-encompassing statewide ban on smoking, it needs to show that businesses benefit from it. I’m not talking just numbers, but also why those that failed really did fail after a local ban, and how others are still in business and survived such a ban. Don’t look only at big cities like Los Angeles; look into smaller communities that mirror some of the communities in Wisconsin.

And if that doesn’t hold up to the opponents, try to find out why they’re opposed… who’s paying them to fight off the ban?

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