A new study shows air quality in Wisconsin bars and restaurants has improved dramatically since the statewide smoking ban went into effect. At least as interesting as the improvement in indoor air – which after all was the whole point of the ban – was just how BAD the air was in many of more than 200 establishments where air quality was measured before the new law want into effect. Twenty-one percent were rated hazardous. “Hazardous levels are usually recorded when people are downwind from a forest fire,” said David Ahrens, a researcher at UW’s Carbone Cancer Center and the study’s author. Most of the rest were rated very unhealthy or unhealthy, with only thirteen percent of the restaurants and bars having satisfactory air quality before the ban.
After the law was enacted, more than 97 percent of the restaurants and bars had good or satisfactory air quality. “The people were are working in those establishments . . . have a fairly immediate improvements in their breathing and in their long term cardiac health,” said Ahrens. Data for the study was collected by public-health agencies in communities around the state. Air-testing equipment collected air samples in the same establishment before and after the smoke-free law went into effect. Most of the testing took place on Friday and Saturday nights when the greatest number of employees and patrons might be exposed to secondhand smoke.