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Wisconsin marks 10 years smoke-free

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -- In 2010 the state passed the "smoke-free air" law.
A decade free of smoke-filled rooms and tabletop ashtrays.

After the decade, we look back at how the law has effected the state.

What did the law actually do?"It prohibited smoking in all workplaces -- and that includes bars and restaurants so a lot of people refer to it as the smoke-free restaurant law", said Dona Wininsky of the American Lung Association.

Pushback on the law was fueled by fear of economic falls to the restaurant industry. Officials say they know confidently, that did not happen.

While the positive effects it has on the workforce are significant. Wininsky said a survey of restaurant and bar workers was done a couple of years after the law went into effect.

"They reported that they wouldn't go home and have chronic cough, shortness of breath, these were people that were exposed to secondhand smoke up to eight hours a day."

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports -- In 2008, 21.7% of high school youth smoked cigarettes. By 2018, that rate had dropped -- To 4.7%.

DHS tobacco section chief, Vicki Huntington says, "We have a generation of youth that are grown up in the state now with this new social norm not remembering having to go into a restaurant and being asked would you like the smoking section or nonsmoking section".

Parents value the difference it has made for their family too. Wausau native Robin Zdzeiblowski shared the law means a lot to her, since her toddler-aged son is allergic to cigarette smoke.

Yet, health officials urge there is more work to be done.

"It's still the number one cause of death and disease. With the increase of e-cigarette use - -a whole new generation is becoming addicted to nicotine." said Jenna Flynn, a representative from the Central WI Tobacco Free Coalition.

Flynn expresses that youth are a large target for the new wave of nicotine addiction, and that is fueled by the appealing flavors included in the drug. "We know here in Wisconsin nine times out of ten these kids would not be trying e-cigarettes if they were not flavored."

DHS reminds the community that no matter your age, it's always a good time to quit.

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