It's Time to Do the Right Thing: Enact a Smoking Ban

May. 4, 2009
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Legislators have the opportunity to do the right thing this week by voting to ban smoking in Wisconsin. The state Senate held a hearing today and the state Assembly is holding a hearing tomorrow. Both houses could vote on legislation quickly and send a bill to Gov. Doyle as early as next Wednesday.

State Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee), the author of the Assembly bill, told me the statewide, comprehensive smoking ban could be phased in over the course of three months. The ban as currently envisioned would still allow for a few exemptions, such as smoking rooms in hotels, assisted living facilities, cigar bars and tobacco shops. The ban is also included in Doyle’s proposed budget.

All I can say is hallelujah! Although I respect smokers’ rights—heck, I smoked for 16 years and enjoyed it up to the day that I quit—it’s long past time for Wisconsin to enact this ban. Bans in a patchwork of cities and counties doesn’t work and simply causes more conflict between smokers and nonsmokers. Trying to distinguish between bars-that-serve-food and restaurants-that-serve-alcohol isn’t fair, either. But a comprehensive ban that still allows for some safe smoking havens is the fairest thing I can think of.

I’ve heard most if not of all of the arguments on both sides of this issue. Many are compelling. But my personal experience with a smoking ban is what made me a believer. I lived in NYC when Mayor Bloomberg enacted the ban. I thought it was a horrible idea even though I’d quit smoking by then. I mean, why live in New York if you can’t do as you please? Why scrub the city so clean that you couldn’t recognize it anymore?

Then the ban kicked in and I loved it. I went to bars more frequently, and I stayed longer. My friends smoked less and felt better in the morning. Bars and restaurants provided smoking areas outdoors, either in a patio or on the sidewalk. Those places became great areas to hook up with other smokers—and by “hook up” I mean “hook up.” So the ban wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

So, Wisconsin, it’s time! A statewide, comprehensive smoking ban is our best option.


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