• Year-old Statewide Smoking Ban Results In Mixed Bag Of Reactions
  • John Belsky has been smoking cigarettes since he was 18.

    So the 70-year-old Janesville man wasn’t happy when Wisconsin’s smoke-free law went into effect a year ago today and he had to start leaving his bar stool and stepping outside for a smoke.

    “I’d rather just stay inside. But rules are rules, and laws are laws,’’ Belsky said while taking a drag from a cigarette.

    East Point Sportz Pub bartender Dan Schultz, on the other hand, is enjoying the smoking cigarettes ban.

    “I think it’s fantastic,’’ he said.

    He no longer undresses in his garage at the end of his shift to avoid taking the smell of smoke cigarettes into his home.

    Schultz said he feels healthier since the smoking cigarettes ban went into effect.

    “I have a little less coughing, and my eyes aren’t as itchy and irritated from the residual haze while working,” he said.

    Health impact

    A UW-Milwaukee study found that bartenders across Wisconsin are feeling healthier, according to the American Cancer Society.

    The study, which surveyed 531 urban and rural bartenders in the two months before and after the law took effect, found a 36 percent reduction in smoking cigarettes-related respiratory health symptoms including wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and sore throats.

    Debbie Fischer, lead agency coordinator for the Southwest Alliance for Tobacco Prevention, headquartered in Beloit, said some of the March study results surprised her and parts didn’t.

    “I was because I didn’t expect that kind of response so quickly. I wasn’t because other states have found this happening throughout the nation when the smoke-free air law passed,’’ she said.

    Another study released in December by the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, Madison, reported that air quality in Wisconsin restaurants and bars improved by more than 92 percent after the smoking cigarettes ban went into affect.

    The study analyzed air-quality data from 214 bars and restaurants where smoking cigarettes was allowed in 41 counties throughout Wisconsin before and after the ban.

    “After the law was enacted, more than 97 percent of the restaurants and bars tested had ‘good’ or ‘satisfactory’ air quality,” the study reported.

    The results didn’t surprise Fischer because she and some alliance members helped conduct some of the air quality studies.

    “After being in the bar before and after, I could not believe the difference,’’ she said.

    Violations

    Since the smoking cigarettes ban went into effect, reports of a potential violation have dropped from 205 the first month to 43 10 months later, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

    Fischer is notified by the state agency about violations in Rock, Green, Grant, Lafayette and Iowa counties.

    As of June 1, there were seven reports of noncompliance in Rock County for the year, Fischer said.

    “I think that is amazing,’’ she said.

    She knows some people aren’t compliant.

    “But I still don’t think there’s many. The majority of the people—establishment owners and patrons—really are following the law,’’ Fischer said.

    Sharen Hoskins, owner of East Point Sportz Pub, said the new law has been “fairly positive” for her business.

    “That’s because I spent time and money—$24,000—to build a nice, smoking cigarettes area to accommodate smokers, who thank me daily. My patio paid for itself in the first year, so it was a good investment. But going into it, I didn’t know,” she said.

    As president of the Rock County Tavern League, Hoskins knows some businesses are not happy with the smoking cigarettes restriction.

    “In general, the majority of the tavern league members are opposed to this. There are tavern owners still upset due to the clientele they have lost and the strictness of the law,’’ she said. “We didn’t want it but are over it. It happened, and we follow the law.’’

    Business impact

    Hoskins said her business increased over the winter even though patrons had to go outside to smoke. The bar’s new smoking cigarettes area is heated.

    “We drew in extra smokers because we have such a nice patio,’’ she said.

    Hoskins other taverns in the league without legal smoking cigarettes areas reported business was down 10 to 35 percent over the winter.

    “Some have really struggled,” she said.