Smoke Free Compromise Expected to Pass
We’ll all breathe easier if we can wait a year.
The good news is that the Wisconsin legislature is likely to pass a comprehensive bill to prohibit smoking in all workplaces in the state as soon as Wednesday.
Yes, that includes all bars and restaurants.
The bad news is that the law won’t take effect until July 5, 2010.
Public health advocates have been working to pass a statewide smoke-free workplace law for years but have been stymied by the opposition of the state Tavern League.
On the other was the conviction that government has no right to tell small businesses what to do.
That, of course, is news to small businesses who complain about all the taxes they pay and other rules government sets for them.
The bottom line is this is long overdue and Wisconsin will finally join most of the rest of the country.
With the support of Governor Doyle and Democrats holding majorities in both legislative houses, the bill’s passage this year seemed a foregone conclusion.
Yet at last Wednesday’s news conference, when the details of a compromise bill were announced there was a sense of disappointment among the advocates. No exceptions and no delays had been the coalition’s mantra and some had trouble understanding why a 14 month wait should be heralded as a victory.
Three months, okay. Six months, maybe.
But an implementation date of July 5, 2010 left some of the rank and file supporters bewildered.
Clearly, the tavern owners were also disappointed. After all, Tavern League President Rob Swearingen pledged his support for the compromise at the news conference claiming the delay would give the economy time to recover to blunt the impact on his members.
Once again, like that other local tradition of sausage-making, sometimes in politics it’s best to avert your eyes.
But to people who have left jobs as servers or entertainers, jobs they love, or at least depend on for their livelihoods, because the second hand smoke was affecting their health, 14 months seems like a long, long time.
Of course, the bar and tavern owners could voluntarily ban smoking before next July 5. It would be the right thing to do.
And for young people who won’t even enter the labor force until after the law takes effect, smoke free workplaces will be all they ever know.
And for that we can be grateful.