A legislative hearing on a proposed statewide smoking ban draws a huge crowd at the Capitol.  Hundreds filled a hearing room to capacity to testify on the bill, which would ban smoking in public places across Wisconsin.

DHFS Secretary Kevin Hayden says delaying action on the bill only exposes more people to the risks of second hand smoke, and increases the chances kids will pick up the habit.  Hayden says a statewide ban is possibly the best thing Wisconsin can do to improve the overall health of the public.

The proposal is being met with a great deal of resistance though.  Tavern owners from across the state were also in attendance at Thursday's hearing.  Sharon Ward of Milwaukee says the ban would drive away many of her customers and she expects it would cause her to lose up to 60 percent of her current profits.  That concern was shared by several other business owners who testified.  Tavern owners have asked for their businesses to be exempted from the bill, but the Governor says he'll reject any statewide ban that's not comprehensive.

Health groups say the bill is not about hurting business though.  They argue it is meant to protect the health of workers who are forced to be around second hand smoke as a part of their job.  The American Cancer Society's Jeri Allen says bar and restaurant workers have a much greater risk of developing smoking-related illnesses because they have to be around second hand smoke.

The proposal is currently being considered by a Senate committee, which is expected to vote on the bill at a later date. 

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (MP3 1:36)

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