Countdown to a smoke-free Wisconsin

June 2, 2010

By Jon Richards, 19th District State Representative

Next month Wisconsin will be smoke-free. On July 5, the ban on smoking in all Wisconsin workplaces-including restaurants and bars-will go into effect. Currently, there are 37 different communities with smoke-free ordinances. This legislation establishes a level playing field for all businesses in Wisconsin.

Nonsmokers are contracting lung cancer at alarming rates due to increased, and unwanted, exposure to secondhand smoke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke increase their risk of contracting heart disease and lung cancer by 20-30 percent. Restaurant and bar employees are more likely to be subjected to unwanted exposure to secondhand smoke than other workers.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Burden of Tobacco Report (2006), nearly 16 percent of all annual deaths in Wisconsin are directly attributable to cigarette smoking. In addition, $2.16 billion is paid annually in Wisconsin direct health care costs. Clearing the air of secondhand smoke will save lives, and decrease the overall cost of health care in our state.

The Smoke Free Wisconsin Act was endorsed by a diverse coalition of public health and business groups that include the Tavern League of Wisconsin, Smoke Free Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, Taverns Clearing the Air, the Wisconsin Medical Society, the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, and the American Heart Association. Twenty-five other states, including Midwestern neighbors like Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois, have passed similar legislation.

In the last days of the legislative session we passed a small change to the smoking ban to clarify that indoor smoking is prohibited and that smoking areas protected from the elements can be erected next to bars and restaurants. This legislation enjoyed bipartisan support in both the Assembly and the Senate. This was truly a bipartisan victory for everyone in Wisconsin!

Jon Richards is the state representative for Wisconsin’s 19th state Assembly District, which includes Bay View, the Third Ward, eastern downtown, and the East Side. His website is He can be reached at (888) 534-0019 or

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One Comment on "Countdown to a smoke-free Wisconsin"

  1. Darcie Galowitch on Wed, 2nd Jun 2010 8:06 pm 

    Thank you Representative Richards for your leadership for public health. We just bought a home in Bay View, and I cannot wait until every workplace in Milwaukee will be smoke-free! July 5th cannot come soon enough for me.

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