Paul McIntyre: Bars need to realize smoke-free reality
In an attempt to head off smoking policies affecting its members, the Wisconsin Tavern League is pushing a measure by state Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, to eliminate smoking in all businesses except bars, and to prohibit local governments from making
Evidence of the health hazards of secondhand smoke becomes more conclusive every day. A study released by the University of Minnesota Cancer Center in May of this year revealed that nonsmoking employees had up to 25 times more nicotine in their bodies on days when they worked in restaurants and bars than on days they were not at work.
Even Philip Morris acknowledges such dangers on its Web site, where it states, "Public health officials have concluded that secondhand smoke from cigarettes causes disease, including lung cancer and heart disease in nonsmoking adults ..."
Despite this, the Tavern League believes the more than 12,000 taverns in Wisconsin should be exempted from smoke-free laws. They base their argument on the presumption that their customers are heavier smokers who are less willing than restaurant patrons to step outside for a smoke, thus causing bars greater hardship.
Lost in this argument is the fact that smoke-free workplace laws are not about the preference for smoke-free eating or drinking, but about protecting health. None of Wisconsin's workers should have to be exposed to such a serious health risk in order to earn a living. It is that issue alone that should drive the debate.
Health and safety laws apply across the board in Wisconsin for the protection of all its citizens.
Certainly bars could make more money than restaurants if their customers were allowed higher blood alcohol content limits, but why should they be? BAC limits do not vary from one type of establishment to the next because exposing the public to drunken drivers is a health and safety issue, not an economic one. The same is true for secondhand smoke.
Those who think successful smoke-free bars are only a pipe dream need look no further than California, where bars and restaurants have been smoke-free and thriving since 1998. The result of smoke-free laws is workplaces that have carcinogens reduced by more than 90 percent, according to biophysicist James Repace, the nation's foremost expert on secondhand smoke pollution.
With hundreds of cities across the nation and nine states from California to New York now covered by 100 percent smoke-free restaurant and bar laws, the inevitability of smoke-free legislation everywhere is a foregone conclusion. Restaurateurs and bar owners should stand up together and be accountable for protecting workers from exposure to the serious risks of exposure to tobacco smoke.
Paul McIntyre is president of Kids Involuntarily Inhaling Secondhand Smoke (KIISS), a Roseville, Calif.-based nonprofit, dedicated to eliminating kids' involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke and its multiple health risks.