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Wisconsin's public indoor smoking ban takes effect next summer

Once America celebrates its freedom next year, Wisconsinites will lose the freedom to smoke in many places.

Legislators announced a deal Wednesday on a statewide public indoor smoking ban that takes effect July 5, 2010.

Both houses are expected to pass the ban next Wednesday.

Gov. Jim Doyle says he's pleased about it, but has not promised he'll sign it yet. Senate President Fred Risser of Madison says it will save the lives of our citizens and save money for taxpayers.

Anti-smoking and public health groups wanted the ban to take effect earlier but tavern owners and other businesses said they needed time to adjust.

The parties haggled for a couple years before they finally reached an agreement. Indian casinos would be exempt, along with existing cigar bars and tobacco shops.

Bars and restaurants could create outdoor smoking areas. Those caught smoking in workplaces would be fined $100 to $250.

And business owners could get one free pass before being tagged for $100 fines. Maureen Busalacchi of Smoke-Free Wisconsin says the deal is workable, even though she'd rather see it start now with no exceptions.

The state's Tavern League opposed the ban, but worked toward a compromise once the writing was on the wall.

League president Rob Swearingen says he hopes the economy improves by the time the ban takes effect so there's as little hardship as possible.

Wisconsin would join neighbors Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois in having statewide bans.