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Governor urges making bars and restaurants smoke-free during stop in Hudson

Gov. Jim Doyle asked people to urge their state legislators to approve a statewide smoking ban in all public places during a stop at Pier 500 restaurant in Hudson Wednesday morning.

"Whether you like the ban or don't like the ban, it is going to happen," he said. "The entire United States will be smoke-free at some time."

Doyle said he would prefer an immediate ban on indoor public smoking to the gradual ban that passed the state Senate Committee on Public Health by a 3-2 vote on Tuesday.

The ban approved by the Senate committee wouldn't apply to bars and restaurants until January 2010. Smoking would be prohibited in other workplaces and public buildings starting January 2009.

The governor said ending indoor public smoking is the final step of his three-step strategy to confront the dangers of tobacco.

The first step, he said, was raising the cigarette tax by $1 per pack, which was approved by the Legislature last fall as part of the 2007-09 state budget.

The Legislature also dedicated $30 million over the biennium to helping people quit smoking, which Doyle said was the second step of his plan.

He said opponents of the cigarette tax increase who argued that it wouldn't cause anyone to quit smoking were wrong.

In the first week after the tax was implemented on Jan. 1, the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line took calls from 9,000 smokers, he said, which equaled the number of calls it received in all of 2007.

"The tax does work and we know it works," he said.

Doyle related that he had tuned in to a talk radio program in which the host was criticizing the tax increase, saying it wouldn't make people stop smoking, only receive several phone calls from people who said they would quit because of it.

About 50 people, mostly supporters of a public smoking ban, attended Wednesday's gathering.

Doyle was welcomed to Hudson and introduced by Pier 500 owner Andy Kron.

Kron indicated that he wasn't necessarily a supporter of the ban, but that he welcomed the opportunity to learn more about the proposed legislation and ask questions about it.

Following Doyle's remarks, Ruth Parriott of the American Cancer Society invited comments on the proposed ban from those in attendance. "It is an honor to be here with such a stalwart public health defender," she said of Doyle.

Chuck Mehls, vice commander of American Legion Post 80 in New Richmond, reported that the post voted 62-1 to go smoke-free when it opened its new building last October. Rentals of the post's facilities have tripled since then, he said. Mehls also is a member of the St. Croix County Board.

St. Croix County Board Chairman Clarence "Buck" Malick noted that Minnesota has already implemented a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants.

He said the county board has passed resolutions encouraging the Wisconsin Legislature to adopt a similar ban. The county also has considered adopting its only countywide ban, he said.

Doyle encouraged the county board to go ahead with its own ban. He said the prospects for the statewide ban are uncertain and that independent action by counties and municipalities might push the Legislature to move.

A number of Wisconsin municipalities have already adopted smoking bans in public places, including restaurants and bars.

Dr. Paul McGinnis of Hudson Physicians Clinic said some people were unhappy when the decision was made for the new Hudson Health Campus that opened in 2003 to be smoke-free. But it was the right thing to do, he said, and people quickly accepted it.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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