Nine years after Smoke Free Air law, Wisconsin says smoke ban is a success

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Friday marked nine years since Wisconsin enacted its Smoke Free air law.

The law made places like bars and restaurants smoke-free.

Now health advocates like the American Lung Association say the ban has been successful in the state.

The Wisconsin Department of Health says the adult smoking rate has fallen to 16% and the youth smoking rate is below 5%.

Other than the health advantages local restaurant owners say having a smoke free atmosphere is good for business.

“Your building stays so much cleaner, your ventilation stays so much cleaner,” says Kevin Burkel, owner of Burkel’s One Block Down. “When you clean in the morning, it stays fresh all day long. Normally when they allowed the smoking in bars the first couple people who come in and fire up the cigarettes you have the smell of cigarettes in your establishment all day.”

The Wisconsin Department of Health says although the amount of cigarette smokers in the state has decreased, youth e-cigarette use skyrocketed 154% from 2014-2018.

Their use is not prohibited indoors, but Burkel says it’s not something he sees often.

“I think a lot of the younger millennials are doing that stuff, but our clientele is a little bit older, so we don’t have a lot of that here. I did a couple years back.”

That is what the state is trying to tackle next.

Representatives with WDH say their next steps include eliminating tobacco and e-cigarettes.

But for now some are just happy that the smoke free air law has been a success.

“At the end of the night you had to go home and throw all your clothes in the washer in the dryer and take a shower to get rid of the smell so you know that part of it i don’t miss.”

When the smoking ban was created Wisconsin’s Tobacco Quit Line saw a spike in calls.

The state’s Department of Health is seeking increased funding for tobacco prevention and control programs which would include that tobacco quit line.

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