Friday, February 1, 2008

Get well Wisconsin. Love, Minnesota.

Wisconsin legislators should look at real smoke-free businesses and realize the value that comes from a healthy environment both for work and play. New Richmond sports bar owner Randy Calleja went smoke-free in 2006 and he says of that decision, "we hear more positive than negative."

There once was a fear that people would drive to neighboring states to smoke inside if Wisconsin were to become smoke-free. Now, because Wisconsin lawmakers have danced around this issue for so long, our neighbors have removed this threat by going smoke-free themselves. Minnesota and Illinois are urging Wisconsin legislators to smarten up and make the region safer and healthier for everyone who calls it home.

Check out this editorial by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune: A neighbor's advice on a smoking ban. It's been 4 months since Minnesota went smoke-free and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Stay tuned next week for a post from Ami about the growing popularity of smoke-free Minnesota among its residents!


Anonymous said...

Maybe instead of being cheeseheads we should be buttheads, and the picture or during television coverage instead of foam blocks of cheese, we can parade in foam butts of a cig and 2nd hand smoke... just like the pepsi maxx commercial, I want to tell the pols in madison.. "WAKE UP PEOPLE!!"

Anonymous said...

So Wisconsin should jump off a bridge because Minnesota did? Can we not assert some independence from Minnesota for once and take this issue on from the perspective of our own state and citizens?

Liz @ SmokeFree Wisconsin said...

arclightzero is right that WI legislators should evaluate our smoke-free bill on its merits, not because our neighboring states have already enacted this important public health legislation.

From the perspective of "our own state and citizens," going smoke-free is the right thing to do. Secondhand smoke causes heart disease, lung cancer, and a whole host of other illnesses, and no one should have to breathe it in for an 8-hour work shift. Everyone deserves protection from this known public health hazard - even if they work in a bar, even if they are smokers themselves, even if they don't currently have this protection at work.

Learning about Minnesota's experience with smoke-free indoor workplaces is valuable, however, and a major newspaper's encouragement to WI to follow suit doesn't deserve to be downplayed. If it wasn't going well in MN, we'd be reading an editorial about that, not one encouraging WI to take the same positive step. MN successfully made the transition to smoke-free in all workplaces, restaurants, and bars. They are probably the state most similar to WI to have done this to date. IL and OH are other examples of Midwestern smoke-free states that have realized this isn't just a west- and east- coast phenomenon.

Annie's point that one area of resistance we encountered early on in this debate (the "island" argument) is now moot is an important one to highlight. We can no longer say that Wisconsin smokers will hop the borders to smoke while they drink because our neighbors have removed that threat. It was a flimsy argument to begin with, but it's just one of many arguments that is quickly losing credibility. Anecdotes about lost business that have been repeated for years aren't matching up with the facts and real experiences in our neighboring smoke-free states. Our opposition, fueled by Big Tobacco, pretends that going smoke-free is bad for bar business. We're hearing from Minnesota that it isn't. Wisconsinites deserve to hear the truth instead of the tired, empty threats of the tobacco industry.