If we wait a few years to pass a statewide smoking ban, thousands of Wisconsinites will die.
…That from State Health Secretary Kevin Hayden , expressing his frustration in the unresolved agreement for a statewide smoking ban. He says the clinical facts regarding the impact on one's health from secondhand smoke are indisputable.
"If we are waiting for the legislature to take a vote and we don't have this (ban) we are going to have more Wisconsin residents die."
Hayden says it's important for residents to understand that outlawing smokes in public places is an issue of public safety and health. Hayden says, public smoking not good for taxpayers, either.
"We've identified in the Medicaid program that we spend about $500-million – a half billion dollars a year – on chronic disease related to smoking."
The smoking ban would take effect on June 1, 2009. A compromise proposal would allow taverns and certain restaurants to phase-in compliance by July 2011; also current bans in various municipalities would be grandfathered-in. Hayden doesn't like that idea.
"I think everybody needs to be the same because you can't have a community pitted against another community."
The ban appears to have the support it needs to pass through the legislature, but legislative leaders first need to schedule the vote. Our neighbors in Illinois and Minnesota already have statewide bans, prompting advocates to say Wisconsin would become the "ashtray of the Midwest."
Time is running out to schedule a vote. This legislative session ends on Thursday.