Wisconsin Legislature Considers Eliminating Smokefree Workplace Laws

Bill Would Roll Back Important Public Health Protections

Jun 23, 2005, 01:00 ET from Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights

    BERKELEY, Calif., June 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Smokefree workplace laws
 scheduled to take effect July 1st in Appleton and Madison will be wiped off
 the books -- along with dozens of others already in effect or being considered
 in cities like Milwaukee -- if state lawmakers pass the misleadingly named
 "Smokefree Dining Act" in the next few weeks.
     Far from making Wisconsin's restaurants smokefree, the proposed "Smokefree
 Dining Act" (identical bills Assembly Bill 414 and Senate Bill 202) would
 actually eliminate smokefree dining in Wisconsin.  In addition, the proposal
 would allow smoking in virtually all worksites statewide, and also "preempt"
 or take away any option for cities to address local secondhand smoke concerns
 in the future.
     "It's outrageous," said Bronson Frick, Associate Director for the
 non-profit group, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.  "It would take Wisconsin
 back to a time before the mountain of scientific evidence linked occupational
 exposure to smoke with a huge range of diseases and premature death.  Today we
 know that the earth isn't flat and that secondhand smoke kills.  Everyone
 should have the right to breathe air free of tobacco smoke in their
     "Secondhand tobacco smoke remains one of the leading causes of preventable
 death in Wisconsin, causing suffering for many families and workers.  This
 bill, if passed, would be a huge victory for Big Tobacco -- perhaps their
 greatest legislative victory in the United States in the past several years.
 Wisconsin residents should urge their lawmakers to vote No on the Big Tobacco
 Protection bill.  Wisconsin's public health laws should be guided by science,
 not by tobacco lobbyists."
     "Local communities should have the right to consider smokefree workplace
 protections if that's what those communities want. This isn't rocket science.
 Cities across the country, from New York City, to Laramie, Wyoming, are
 passing strong smokefree laws to protect workers and residents from secondhand
 smoke. Wisconsin is way behind the curve on these health protections, but it
 is even more shocking that if they pass this bill, they would be headed in the
 wrong direction entirely," Frick added.
     Health policy experts point out that state-level proposals for cutting
 citizens and local governments out of the smoking debate is a common tobacco
 industry tactic that has been used in other states.
     "We know from the once-secret Philip Morris documents turned over in
 lawsuits that stripping away local control on smokefree air is the tobacco
 industry's top legislative priority," said Frick.
     "Tobacco companies prefer fighting public health measures like smokefree
 workplace policies at the state level, where they have more lobbying influence
 over the legislative process and are more likely to succeed in killing good
 health proposals."
     "Philip Morris's documents show that that the company is well-aware that
 smokers who want to quit find it easier to do so when they work in a smokefree
 environment," he said. "Big Tobacco wants to keep people addicted and their
 cigarette profits up."
     A study published in the May 2005 issue of the medical journal Circulation
 found that even short-term exposure to secondhand smoke can cause
 life-threatening changes to a nonsmoker's circulation system.
     "The effects of even brief exposure to passive smoking are often nearly as
 large (80 to 90 percent) as chronic active smoking," according to Dr. Stanton
 Glantz of the University of California, San Francisco and one of the study's
     "It doesn't take much to cause big effects," Glantz said.  "If you already
 have compromised coronary circulation and go into a smoky environment, there
 is a substantial increase in your risk of an acute event (such as a heart
     In light of mounting evidence linking short-term secondhand smoke exposure
 to increased heart attack risk, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
 Prevention issued a warning in 2003 urging all people at risk of heart disease
 to avoid all enclosed places where smoking occurs.
     Nationally, over 4,600 municipalities now have smokefree workplaces by
 local or statewide law.  About 35% of the U.S. population now lives in an area
 with smokefree restaurants by law (including any bar areas).   Wisconsin is
 now considered one of the smokiest states in the U.S., with under one percent
 of the state's population having the right to smokefree workplaces or indoor
 public places, but more cities, including Green Bay, Oshkosh, and Milwaukee
 have considered stronger smokefree policies in recent months.
     Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights is a national member-based non-profit
 dedicated to protecting people's right to breathe smokefree air in enclosed
 workplaces and public places.
     Additional Resources:
     Philip Morris company documents on preemption and workplace restrictions:
     Philip Morris Preemption Strategy Map

SOURCE Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights