A letter to the editor in the Feb. 19 edition:
I am hoping that Gov. Jim Doyle’s proposed statewide smoking ban (SB 150) is not dead because Wisconsin Senate Democratic leaders say they haven’t been able to reach a compromise of the ban on exemptions for taverns. Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Weston) and Sen. Roger Breske (D-Eland), the caucus chair, are making it difficult to bring this bill to a vote on the Senate floor.
It’s time for citizens to pressure the Senators and for other members in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans, to call their bluff and force this issue to a vote. Sen. Judy Robson (D-Beloit), a strong supporter of the ban, is going to push for a vote. That would require a two-thirds majority.
A statewide ban is a matter of vital public health. In 2006, U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona reported that exposure by nonsmokers to secondhand smoke increases their risk of heart disease and lung cancer by as much as 30%. Illinois and Minnesota recently enacted such bans, and polls in Wisconsin show strong public support. To his credit, Rep. Steve Wieckert (R-Appleton) is trying to get the Assembly to vote on a ban.
Breske said last week that a meeting he had with Decker, the Tavern League of Wisconsin and anti-smoking groups, including the American Cancer Society, failed to produce a compromise. Doyle wanted the ban to take effect in 2009. Breske and Decker say taverns should be exempted until July 1, 2011. Why are they looking for a delay? A check by a watchdog group of the $294,745 in campaign donations given to legislators in both parties by the Tavern League from 2003 through 2006 shows Breske, former president of the league, got the most – $15,674, while Decker was No. 2 at $10,850. Are they caving to the special interests of the taverns in their district rather than the public’s health?
I would ask that anyone who wants to see a ban on indoor smoking in public places contact Breske, who represents Lincoln County, and ask him to allow this matter to come to a vote. Contact Senator Roger Breske at 800-334-8773 or Sen.Breske@legis.wi.gov.