Friday, March 28, 2008

Aloha from smoke-free Hawaii!

The break in blogging this week is due to my family vacation in beautiful Maui. The weather has been gorgeous and it's wonderful to be assured that every place we go is smoke-free!

By all accounts Hawaii's smoke-free law (implemented in November 2006) has been a huge success. One thing that struck me is the "no smoking" signs are very noticeable - probably because there are more tourists here than in most smoke-free places.


P.S. I'll be back (refreshed!) next week.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Eau Claire passes strong smoke-free ordinance!

Today Eau Claire became the 5th city in Wisconsin to pass a strong smoke-free ordinance that includes all workplaces, restaurants, and bars. Eau Claire will implement their ordinance on July 1st.

Congratulations to everyone who worked hard to get this ordinance passed and all the activists who contacted their city council members asking for this change!

After the State Legislature concluded without passing a smoke-free law, it's great to see communities taking this issue on and protecting their citizens from secondhand smoke.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A reason to testify for a smoke-free Eau Claire next Monday

Today the Tobacco Free Partnership of Eau Claire County released a report in conjunction with the UW Comprehensive Cancer Center on air quality in restaurants and bars in Eau Claire and surrounding communities. The results revealed staggeringly dangerous levels of indoor air pollution in the eating and drinking establishments that were visited.

The Eau Claire City Council will hold a public hearing on a proposed smoke-free ordinance on Monday, March 24th, at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall (203 S. Farwell St.). We need supporters to attend and urge the City Council to approve a smoke-free ordinance that protects the public and all workers, including restaurant and bar workers, from secondhand smoke without delay.

Here is an excerpt from the report that really got to me: "Air quality in 11 of the 13 establishments was at a level two or more times greater than what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates as hazardous, even when only one or two people in a restaurant or tavern were smoking."

No one should have to work in an environment that the EPA deems "hazardous." To put it into perspective, the Wisconsin DNR issued "air quality alerts" last fall and early winter when the outdoor air reached "unhealthy" levels. The "hazardous" level is twice as polluted as the "unhealthy" level; the levels in 11 out of the 13 establishments tested were at least 2 times greater than the "hazardous" level - literally off the chart. You can see a picture of the chart with the full study here.

Eau Claire citizens have the chance next Monday to ask their City Council to pass an ordinance that would require all workplaces to be smoke-free. Please, go and testify and urge your alders to vote "YES" for Clear Air Eau Claire!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fitchburg goes smoke-free in 2 weeks!

The countdown to a smoke-free Fitchburg has begun. On April 1, Fitchburg's smoke-free ordinance takes effect.

Check out the Smoke-free Fitchburg website here: www.smokefreefitchburg com.

Come celebrate with us! You can find Smoke-free Fitchburg members at Kelly's Grille on April 1st from 5:30-7:00 p.m. We're so excited about Wisconsin's next smoke-free city that we'll be celebrating throughout the summer. Click on the Events link at to find out which smoke-free restaurants and bars we'll be visiting next!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chicago smokers adjust easily, make new friends while they're at it

This article from the Chicago Tribune sums up what I hear from a lot of Madison smokers - making the transition to smoke-free wasn't as big of a deal as they originally predicted and things are already back to normal.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Legislature ends session without protecting workers' health

The Legislature wrapped up this week without taking the Breathe Free Wisconsin Act to the floor for a vote in either house.

You can read the It's Time... to breathe free Coalition statement here.

It's important not to let this issue die with the end of the Legislative Session. One important thing you can do right now is write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

Click here for tips and messages to get you started and for a list of newspapers you can submit your letter to.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Self-extinguishing cigs bill to be voted on in Senate today


SB 379, the self-extinguishing cigarettes bill introduced by Senator Judy Robson, is scheduled for a floor vote in the Senate today. You can read our original post about the bill here. Sen. Robson's office also recently posted information on SB 379 on her website here.
I'm pretty sure this is the last stop in the Legislature for this bill - a companion bill in the Assembly (AB 717) introduced by Rep. Hines has already passed that house.

We'll update this post when we hear how the vote goes!

Here's the roll call:
Nays - Grothman, Lazich, Leibham
Ayes - Everyone else
(sorry for being lazy...)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

WISPIRG Report: Smoke and Mirrors: Tobacco Industry Claims Unfounded

Thanks to Bruce Speight from WISPIRG for this guest post!

WISPIRG’s new report, Smoke and Mirrors: Tobacco Industry Claims Unfounded, is further evidence that we can have smoke-free bars and a healthy economy. We found that requests for liquor licenses in Madison and Appleton have increased since the implementation of the smoke-free ordinances in those communities, with 365 licensed liquor establishments in Madison in January 2008 compared to 332 in July 2005 before the ordinance, and for the first time ever in Appleton there is a continuous waiting list for Class B liquor licenses (with 8 currently on the waiting list). The average assessed property value in business districts in both communities has also increased since implementation.

In addition, the report summarizes findings from nine peer-reviewed scientific studies that were selected for their geographic and demographic diversity to help demonstrate similar conclusions have been made in different communities. Regardless of the variables, including the size of communities, the outcomes are consistent: smoke-free policies either had a neutral or positive economic impact.

It's no surprise that Big Tobacco and its allies are trying to scare us with tales of economic ruin. The question is: are we going to let Big Tobacco define the public health agenda in Wisconsin, or are we going to implement public policy that protects public health and reduces asthma, heart attacks, and lung cancer in Wisconsin?

To view the report, visit

Bruce Speight is the public interest advocate for WISPIRG. Bruce started his work with PIRG as a campus organizer in both Massachusetts and Wisconsin. After that, Bruce was the program director of Massachusetts Community Water Watch, an Americorps program. Before assuming his current position, Bruce was the state field director for Wisconsin's New Voters Project. Bruce is a 1996 graduate of Bowdoin College.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Decker's hometown Chamber says "no" to bogus compromise

We've talked about the unprecedented business community support for Wisconsin's smoke-free legislation before (Wisconsin Restaurant Association, Wisconsin Innkeepers Association, Wisconsin Tourism Federation, Association of Wisconsin Tourism Attractions, Wisconsin Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus, Wisconsin Dells Convention and Visitors Bureau...), but now that sector's feelings about SB 150 and the alternatives being promoted by the Tavern League and its partners, including Big Tobacco, is hitting home for some legislators. Last night the Wausau Chamber of Commerce voted not to support Sen. Decker's so-called compromise on the Breathe Free Wisconsin Act. Their main reason: it applied different rules to different kinds of businesses, thereby creating an unlevel playing field. You can read the full article covering the meeting here.

Smoke-free advocates also oppose Sen. Decker's proposal because it doesn't provide immediate and equal health protections to all Wisconsin residents and workers. It's time for Wisconsin to go smoke-free and it's time to bring the Breathe Free Wisconsin Act to a vote so our legislators can make that a reality.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Over 1,000 rally with Lance Armstrong in support of smoke-free air

Cancer survivor, advocate, and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong joined more than a thousand tobacco-free activists from all over the state to highlight the need for smoke-free air in Wisconsin. "The fight against cancer doesn't care if you're a Republican or you're a Democrat, or if you're white or if you're African American, or if you're rich or you're poor, or you're young or you're old," Armstrong said. The crowd really reflected his statement - people from all corners of Wisconsin were there to show their support for the Breathe Free Wisconsin Act.

"For me as a visitor and a cancer survivor, people say this is about their personal right, and you absolutely have a right to smoke a cigarette when you're alone," said Armstrong. "But when you do it in a public place you're violating someone else's rights, and the government should intervene." Hundreds of attendees at the rally also took advantage of their time in Madison to meet with their legislators to talk about the importance of the Breathe Free Wisconsin Act.

Read the Lance Armstrong Foundation's (our newest coalition partner) reaction to the day on the LIVESTRONG blog here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

AB 834 passes committee, 6-3

After a blowout hearing in support of smoke-free air last week, the Assembly Public Health Committee approved AB 834 without changes on a 6-3 vote.

Now both bills are at the same point in the legislative process: awaiting a vote on the floor of the Assembly or Senate.

Vote Count:
Rep. Hines
Rep. Moulton
Rep. Benedict
Rep. Wasserman
Rep. Schneider
Rep. Black

Rep. Vukmir
Rep. Ballweg
Rep. Nerison