Wisconsin’s Smoking Ban: The Facts by State Senator Mary Lazich
A legislative column by state Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin)
Time to clear the air. Confusion abounds regarding Wisconsin’s looming statewide smoking ban. Here are important facts about the new law based on information from the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau and the Legislative Council.
Beginning July 5, 2010, smoking will be prohibited in enclosed public places and workplaces, publicly or privately owned, including taverns and restaurants. Smoking is defined as the burning or holding, or inhaling or exhaling smoke from a lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe, or any other lighted smoking equipment. A public place is a place open to the public, regardless of whether a fee is charged, or a place the public has lawful access or may be invited. A place of employment is any indoor place that employees normally frequent during the course of employment. That includes an office, work area, employee lounge, a restroom, a conference or meeting room, a classroom, or a hallway.
Under the smoking ban law signed by Governor Doyle May 18, 2009, the word enclosed was defined as a structure that has a roof and more than two substantial walls. A substantial wall was defined as a wall with an opening, door or window, that may be used to allow air in from the outside that is less than 25 percent of the wall’s surface area.
Near the end of the 2009-10 general legislative session, the Legislature amended the definition of substantial wall to now mean, a wall with no opening or with an opening that either does not allow air in from the outside or that is less than 25 percent of the wall’s surface area. That means the smoking ban law will allow structures that have a roof and not more than two substantial walls. Bar and restaurant owners could, thus, build L-shaped outdoor patios or beer gardens with two substantial walls and allow smoking in such areas.
Indoor smoking will be allowed in private residences, retail tobacco stores or tobacco bars that were in existence June 3, 2009, rooms used as a residence by only one person in an assisted living facility or a room that all occupants requested in writing to be allowed to smoke, and Tribal casinos or facilities. The ban applies everywhere else. A person in charge of a building cannot designate rooms or parts of rooms as smoking areas.
Penalties will be issued to violators. Anyone smoking in a prohibited area is subject to a forfeiture of not less than $100 nor more than $250 for each violation. A person in charge of a facility is subject to a forfeiture of $100 for each violation, but not more than one penalty per day if the person fails to take any required action to stop illegal smoking.
Persons in charge of facilities are required to make reasonable efforts to prevent illegal smoking. The Legislative Reference Bureau writes:
"For example, a bartender may not provide matches, ashtrays, or other smoking-related equipment, and must take all of the following steps:
· Post warning signs or provide other appropriate notification;
· Refuse to serve a person who is smoking in a tavern, restaurant, or
· Ask a person who is smoking to refrain from doing so;
· Ask a person to leave if he or she refuses to stop smoking; and
· Immediately notify an appropriate law enforcement agency if a smoker
refuses to leave after being asked to do so."
As I have stated at many times, I do not smoke and do not like the smell of smoke. Restrictions in public, government buildings that the public must conduct business are reasonable. However, mandating a ban of a legal activity on privately owned and operated businesses is unacceptable, the key reason I voted against the smoking ban.
It is particularly interesting state government prohibits smoking, a legal activity, at Wisconsin places of entertainment that are in direct customer competition with Casinos. The first time that I heard about Governor Doyle’s smoking ban, I commented that I would vote for a smoking ban, when Governor Doyle bans smoking at the Casinos. Subsequent to that I had a conversation with former Department of Administration Secretary Mark Burgher about the successful process he and Governor Tommy Thompson used to negotiate age restrictions at Casinos. The question remains, why didn’t Governor Doyle negotiate a non smoking policy at Casinos?
If you have comments on this or any other issue, please contact me at email@example.com, www.senatorlazich.com, Senator Mary Lazich, State Capitol, P.O. Box 7882 Madison, WI 53707 or 1-800-334-1442.