Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Smoke-free Law Shows Positive Opinions One Year Later

One year later, and the verdict is in - Wisconsin is better smoke-free. A recent satisfaction survey released by a coalition of health groups around the state, including SmokeFree Wisconsin, shows Wisconsin residents widely agree—in fact, 75% of potential voters in our state support the Smoke-free law.

After being implemented on July 5th, 2010, we have seen tremendous health benefits from Wisconsin’s statewide smoke-free law and it’s only been one year!

Here’s a quick recap on how far we’ve come in the last year and how great the law has been:

An air quality test in Wisconsin’s bars and restaurants done by the Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center found unhealthy air in bars and restaurants has decreased 92 percent. This fact is one reason Jessica Schlitz, a bartender at the Uptowner in Riverwest, supports the smoke-free law.

“I love it! Before, it used to be around 3 or 4 o’clock and already you’d have to part the smoke with your hands,” she said in an interview with the UWM Post in January.

Schlitz isn’t the only one noticing the difference. Bartenders’ health around the state has greatly improved with the smoke-free law. Upper respiratory symptoms such as wheezing and shortness of breath have decreased 36 percent in bartenders, according to a study released earlier this year by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Making sure all workers in Wisconsin, like Schlitz, have the right to work in a smoke-free workplace is important to Wisconsin citizens as 85 percent surveyed believe that secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard in the above-mentioned survey.

In addition to the great health impact it’s had on workers and customers, the smoke-free law has even been good for business! In an economic study released this year, UW-Madison found that cities with smoke-free laws before the whole state went smoke-free saw no adverse economic effects on the hospitality industry when compared to cities without smoke-free ordinances. Now that the whole state is smoke-free, we’re seeing the same positive effect, overall.

Mike Wier, restaurant owner of Kroll’s West in Green Bay said in an interview with WLUK-TV Fox, Green Bay in January, “It was an interesting situation. We had people that were coming back that had been old customers, and they liked the idea that now it was smoke-free.” This coincides with the satisfaction survey, which found 91 percent of Wisconsin residents said they go out the same or more often now that bars and restaurants are smoke-free.

Mike Fassino, owner of Paddy Ryan’s Irish Pub in Hudson agreed that business has not been affected saying he sees “no drawback whatsoever as far as business goes.”

This sentiment was strongly echoed again by Danielle Baerwald, owner of Erv’s Mug in Oak Creek who says their business has been up 20 percent since the smoke-free law was implemented.

“We’re seeing faces and families again who had actually stopped coming in because of how much smoke their used to be coming from the bar,” Baerwald said. “Folks who did smoke in our establishment have adapted quickly to the change and don’t mind going outside to smoke. Even some of my smoking staff say they’ve cut down on how much they smoke because of it. And the rest of my staff has appreciated the change. The law has been good for me and for my customers and employees.”

With the smoke-free law in place statewide, no worker has to choose between their health and a paycheck in Wisconsin. Compliance data from the department of health services shows more than 99% of Wisconsin’s businesses are complying with the law. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that the statewide smoke-free law has been a great success.

Andrew Kron, owner of Pier 500 in Hudson, summed up this success best in his interview with . “The experience I’ve had going smoke-free is it’s been a benefit to not only our guests, but also our staff. From the health standpoint I truly do understand why it’s in place. It makes for a much healthier state and levels the playing field for everyone. We’ve had increases every month, so we’re happy.”

If you are looking to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the smoke-free law today, click here for a list of the celebrations going on statewide.

For more information on the satisfaction poll released by a coalition of health groups on Thursday, June 30th, 2011, click here.

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