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Wisconsin’s smoke free law took effect Monday

Some fear new law will be bad for business

July 6, 2010
By LISA M. HOFFMANN Staff Writer

IRON MOUNTAIN - Wisconsin's indoor work spaces went smoke free on Monday and area business owners are concerned the new law may be bad for business.

Maureen Busalacchi, executive director for SmokeFree Wisconsin, said with Wisconsin's smoke free workplace law, all indoor work spaces, including restaurants and manufacturing offices, will not be able to allow indoor smoking.

There are a few exceptions where smoking indoors in public places will be allowed. Those are cigar bars and tobacco retailers that meet certain requirements in terms of sale and existence.

Busalacchi said there are some interesting aspects of Wisconsin's law. Work or employer vehicles, common areas of campuses, lobbies of apartments, multi-unit housing, hotel rooms, stadiums, fairgrounds, baseball fields and anywhere there is a spectator sport will become smoke free.

Lambeau Field in Green Bay is included in smoke-free facilities throughout the state.

Busalacchi added that Wisconsin is the only state in the country that is making all hotel rooms and rentable cabins smoke free. Other states, such as Michigan, go by a percentage of rooms.

Enforcing violations of the new law will be complaint driven, Busalacchi said.

If there is a business that continues to allow smoking, they will be sent a letter and warned about the problem. If it happens again, that business will be fined $100. And the person who is doing the smoking will be fined between $100 and $250.

"It is up to the business owner to have employees do the right thing," Busalacchi said. "Most people are going to follow this law. By large, there will not be a need for a lot of tickets or fines. So many people are excited."

Gina Frappier, owner of Gina Marie's in Spread Eagle, Wis., is hoping the new smoking ban doesn't affect her business that rebuilt three years ago.

"I am not sure what is going to happen. I do have a lot of customers who do smoke and enjoy having a cigarette before and after dinner," Frappier said.

Frappier added that she doesn't know what the effect will be on her business.

Busalacchi said a wide majority of people want this law, including those in the hospitality business.

"Many bars are renovating and looking forward to less maintenance and cleaning," she said.

Several establishments in Florence County noted they are not looking forward to the smoking ban.

Lora Aberle, daytime manager at C & R Bar in Aurora, Wis., said the smoking ban will absolutely affect business in a negative way.

"I don't think it will during lunch and dinner, but later at night," she said. "If I am a smoker, I'd stay home and drink if I can't smoke. I think business is bad enough now, and it is not going to help anything."

Frappier added drink sales will go down for sure because customers who smoke won't stay long and will have to go outside to smoke.

"It will be better for everybody's health that doesn't smoke, and it will be a wait and see game. It's hard to say," she said of what will happen with the new law.

Bill Counter, owner of Hitch 'n Post in Aurora, Wis., thinks the new law will be bad in the beginning, but as time goes on it will be a good thing all around.

"People will be upset because it's a sudden change. Sometimes change is good, sometimes not," he said. "As time goes on, it will be more beneficial and healthier for everyone."

SmokeFree Wisconsin surveys over the years have indicated that many people, including smokers, support the new law.

"We certainly want to support those who want to quit. We have been encouraging employers. There is also a quit line and a number of resources," said Busalacchi. "1-800-QUIT-NOW is a great resource for those who wish to quit. This new law will make it easier because smokers won't be able to smoke at work or on campuses."

The law does not define how far one must be away from the building to smoke outside, but smokers must be a reasonable distance away. Busalacchi said this is so that smoke is not going inside the building through the front door or windows.

Bars and restaurants can designate an outdoor smoking area.

"The whole idea is to keep smoke out of the building. They should set it up, so smoke is not wafting in through a door or window," Busalacchi said.

There is no law against smoking inside personal vehicles.

Once state businesses are in compliance, Busalacchi said there will not be a need to enforce the law.

"It is a good law and we know it will have an immediate affect on hospitality workers. They will find within days that precursors to respiratory disease will go away. Those include running nose and eyes and tightens of chest, and they will feel better and call in sick less," Busalacchi said.

Visit for employer resources, a list of events, and videos of those talking about the law.

Lisa M. Hoffmann's e-mail address is



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