Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays from Smoke-Free Wisconsin

Greetings Readers,

This will be the very last blog post for the year 2009. All of us at Smoke-Free Wisconsin are going to take some time off and recharge for next year. 2010 is going to be a big year in many ways. The movement for tobacco prevention and control in Wisconsin saw big victories and big defeats this past year. That is not to say that we did not make progress and overcome these challenges.

2010 will bring smoke-free air, many new chances for people to find their way to successfully quit, and new education to communities all across Wisconsin on the dangers of Big Tobacco and its dirty tricks.

As we reflect on the year 2009 it has been a great year. We won so much and made lasting change in  our communities. I am proud to be a part of that change and proud to think that I will have made a lasting impression on this great state in the form of a smoke-free workplaces law.

Happy Holidays and to a safe, happy and SMOKE-FREE New Year! 

Thank you for making this year great! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Release from Goverrnor Doyle

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today announced a decrease in smoking among Wisconsin high school students. According to a 2009 survey conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the number of students who reported smoking a cigarette in the past 30 days dropped to 17 percent – down from 21 percent in 2007.

“Throughout my career, as Attorney General and Governor, I have worked hard to protect our kids from smoking and becoming addicted to tobacco,” Governor Doyle said. “Our efforts to reduce youth smoking are working - from raising the cigarette tax to preventing youth tobacco sales and involving them in our outreach campaigns. When goes Wisconsin’s smokefree in July of 2010 we will further improve public health, save lives and reduce health care costs.”

Governor Doyle has fought smoking throughout his career. Earlier this year he signed legislation making public places, including restaurants, taverns, and other indoor workplaces, smokefree. In 2008 Governor Doyle led the effort to increase the cigarette tax by $1.00 with a main goal of reducing youth smoking. In addition, he has taken a number of steps to reduce smoking in Wisconsin, including supporting cessation programs, providing free quit-smoking medications through the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line, and increasing youth tobacco prevention efforts. In 1999, as Attorney General, he negotiated a multi-million dollar settlement for the state with Big Tobacco.

The 2009 Youth Risk Behavioral Survey was conducted by DPI as part of a national effort by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor health-risk behaviors of the nation’s high school students. DPI administered the survey to 2,434 students in 57 public schools in Wisconsin in the spring of 2009. The report contains findings in eight priority areas: protective assets; traffic safety; weapons and violence; suicide; tobacco use; alcohol and other drug use; sexual behaviors; and nutrition and exercise.

DPI has administered the Youth Risk Behavioral Survey every two years beginning with 1993.

For more information on the survey, visit

For more on Wisconsin’s Youth Tobacco Prevention and Control efforts, visit

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Power of Story

Just last week I attended a three day training with many of my colleagues in tobacco control on digital storytelling. A small group of us, most of whom have vastly more experience in tobacco control came together to learn how to create digital stories. Nearly of all us told stories about our experiences in this work and shared our stories of how and why we work in tobacco control. Despite all of us telling stories about virtually the same movement, the way we saw it and experienced it were vastly different. Each of us has a story to tell and each story is powerful and meaningful. The training was wonderful and deeply moving to say the least. If you like stories, I highly recommend trying to connect with the wonderful trainers and attending events hosted by these folks. 

I wanted to share my story with you so you can learn more about how powerful stories can be. The folks over at tobwis are thinking about ways to utilize story in our work.

I am looking forward to hearing everyone's stories, as I am sure my work will inspire you to speak as well. This is the season to reflect on our values and to share out what those values are.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Michigan going smoke-free!

Last Friday Michigan Goverrnor Granholm signed their new smoke-free air bill into law! This is an exciting moment for the residents of Michigan. Clean air and healthier works coming right up!

Congrats to Michigan and to all the clean and clear air that will be coming their way.

Visit the campaign website for more details.

Friday, December 18, 2009

National Attention turns to Massachusetts

According to the New York Times article, "Massachusetts began offering virtually free treatments to help poor residents of the state stop smoking in 2006, proponents hoped the new Medicaid program would someday reap benefits. But state officials never expected it would happen so soon.

New state data show a steep drop in the smoking rate among poor people. When the program started, about 38 percent of poor Massachusetts residents smoked. By 2008, the smoking rate for poor residents had dropped to about 28 percent, a decrease of about 30,000 people in two and a half years, or one in six smokers, said Lois Keithly, director of the state’s Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program." Medicaid coverage of cessation services is imperative in making progress towards reducing tobacco use numbers in every state including Wisconsin. To learn more about the numbers read the full article.

Despite the fact that the research has not been peer reviewed this program is an important indicator that if a state makes an investment in tobacco prevention and control promising results are possible. This article comes on the heels of a report indicating that Wisconsin lags in its funding of tobacco control efforts.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New report shows Wisconsin is not making good use of tobacco tax revenue

Wisconsin drops to 33 in the nation in funding for tobacco prevention and control for 2010. Next year Wisconsin will only spend 12.6% of the CDC reccomendation for tobacco control. Despite the fact that Wisconsin ranks 5th in the highest cigarette tax, its drops to the bottom in spending on preventing tobacco use.

We all pay over $2 billion in tobacco related illnesses each year, yet Wisconsin legislators failed to allocate funds towards important programs that seek to regulate and control tobacco, but also prevent its use. As we have discussed many times, the Wisconsin legislature was short sighted when they cut funding for this critical public health program by over 50%. Together local, state, and regional partners have gotten the high school smoking rate down to 20.5%. It is likely those trends will reverse if funding is not restored to the program.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hats off to Michigan! lawmakers pass smoking ban that exempts 3 Detroit casinos, cigar bars, home offices --

According to the ChicagoTribune Michigan Senators passed a bill today that would cover all workplaces, restaurants, and bars in the state. There just a few exemptions for 3 Detroit Casinos, cigar bars, home offices, and motor vehicles.
This is a HUGE step forward for Michigan and the air is finally clearing for our neighbors!
For the full article click here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow Day!

In light of blizzard like conditions, SmokeFree Wisconsin is closed today. Blog posts will resume their regular schedule tomorrow.

Enjoy the first snow while it is still beautiful and magical.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

New smoke-free neighbor?

The Detroit News reported that an amended smoke-free law could clear the Michigan Legislature this year. It is disappointing to hear that it will most likely exempt casinos. Leadership from both houses indicated that passing this important health protecting bill is a priority before the holiday recess. Leadership indicated the votes were there to pass a smoke-free workplaces, restaurants and bars law, but its appears the votes are a little thin on including the casinos. While this would be an important step forward for public health, it leaves out workers in Detroit casinos who deserve protection from secondhand smoke- just like other workers.

The compromise legislation would allow smoking on the casino floor but not in hotels, restaurants, or bars located in casinos. Some of the reports on Michigan's progress towards becoming the next smoke-free state are disturbingly similar to Wisconsin's debate- words like compromise and "let's just get this thing done." Wisconsin and Michigan both considered smoke-free legislation last legislative session. Both states did not pass comprehensive legislation. Legislators in both states are or were concerned about "getting it done" instead of getting it right. Let's hope Michiganders can stand strong for smoke-free workplaces, restaurants, bars, and casinos.

Monday, December 7, 2009

World Health Orgainzation Announcement

Today, December 7, 2009 the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it will be expanding its tobacco control efforts on the continent of Africa. This is an important step forward for tobacco control for a few reasons. First, according to the WHO projections, "Unchecked [tobacco use], it will kill more than 8 million people per year by 2030, with more than 80 percent of those deaths occurring in developing countries. Although tobacco use is less prevalent in Africa than in other regions of the world, that will change unless we act," said Ala Alwan. 

African Nations appear to be at a critical junction between future increased tobacco use and the health problems associated with it and comprehensive health policies preventing the devastating toll of tobacco. Ala Alwan also said, "Tobacco breeds poverty, killing people in their most productive years. It consumes family and health-care budgets -- money spent on tobacco products is money not spent on such essentials as education, food, and medicine." 

While he might discussing the issues related to smoking on the continent, he might as well be talking about what we have seen in the United States and Wisconsin as well. Wisconsin has certainly seen its ups and downs in tobacco control, we are also at a critical juncture with our work in tobacco. Will we continue to allow Big Tobacco to interfere with public health policy? Will we work to end the candy flavored tobacco products? What other steps must we take to reduce our annual burden of tobacco? 

It is important to note that while some African countries have  implemented smoke-free air policies, many countries have not. With tobacco use on the rise and high rates of exposure to secondhand smoke, the WHO initiative is important for the health of all people on the continent. WHO is planning on opening a regional office and is receiving funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Friday, December 4, 2009

UW Eau Claire to go smoke-free?

University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire is considering going 100% smoke-free.
The Student Senate passed two resolutions. Firs,t smoking will be prohibited on campus. Second, a task force will be formed to address secondhand smoke exposure.

For complete details see the article published by the student newspaper.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Last Coulee Region Smoke-Free Dining Guide

Ms. Paula Silha of the La Crosse Area Health Initiative (LAHI) had a great interview with Channel 8 yesterday. This is an great example of garnering earned media attention for a regularly scheduled coalition activity. It was covered by the media because it puts a new spin on a common topic.

Congrats to LAHI for great work on this!

I love the sound bit towards the end...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Congrats to Virginia!

Virginia, home to parts of Big Tobacco, will be going smoke-free tomorrow. This is a landmark law because Virginia is a political and financial stronghold of Big Tobacco, namely Phillip Morris. Starting today, December 1st, Virginia restaurants and bars will be smoke-free. Prior to the enactment of this law, many, nearly 70% of establishments were already smoke-free. There are only a few exemptions to the law which include private clubs, restaurants located on the premise of tobacco manufacturers and restaurants which have structurally separate and adequately ventilated rooms for smoking. Virginia's law covers hookah establishments, cigar bars, and bowling centers. However under the new law bowling centers and bingo halls that prepare and serve food the law applies and compliance options are: 
  • Go smoke free throughout the entire facility.
  • Cease preparation and service of food and the ban would not apply.
  • Comply with the law by modifying the structure so the smoking area is structurally separate from the non-smoking areas and vent the smoking area to prevent re-circulation of air from the smoking are into the non-smoking area. There also must be at least one public entrance into the non-smoking area.
An interesting note is that Virginia's state law does not allow e-cigarettes to be used in smoke-free establishments. 

While this law, like many laws are far from perfect this is a significant step forward for Virginians. For complete details of the law visit this website.

Congrats to Virginia. Cheers to smoke-free tobacco states!