Smoking ban ordinance introduced
On Tuesday night, the Eau Claire City Council officially introduced an ordinance to prohibit smoking in work and public places as well as certain outdoor areas around Eau Claire.
The council is set to vote on the issue on March 25 after holding a public hearing March 24 for concerned members of the community, councilman David Duax, who co-sponsored the proposal with councilman Hal Davis, said.
The purpose of the ordinance is protecting the public health, safety, comfort and general welfare of the people of the city of Eau Claire, according to its first section. If passed, Duax said the measure would go into effect July 1 to allow tavern owners and other proprietors time to adjust and adapt to the new law.
Duax said that he feels compelled in the interest of public health to re-introduce the ordinance, which had been worked on more than a year ago.
Appleton, Madison and the Village of Shorewood in Milwaukee are a few cities that have adopted a citywide smoke-free ordinance as well as the full states of Minnesota and Illinois.
Senior Lincoln Walker said that if the trend continues, it could definitely have an impact on the state-wide legislation.
“If more counties and cities do it, it’s more likely to go state-wide,” he said.
While Duax said the only strong opposition to the proposal comes from tavern owners or the Tavern League of Wisconsin, he feels community support is high enough to push the ordinance through.
“My readout is that there’s strong political support and by political I mean people,” he said. “My concern is the Tavern League is the only big Kahuna player in this thing that’s opposed to it. They don’t want to compromise, don’t want to sit and dialogue. They say ‘here we stand, we are opposed to this no ifs, ands or buts.’”
The majority of taverns affected by the ban would be those thought of as small, neighborhood bars with a blue collar feel to them, Duax said.
In 2005, and again in 2007,ÿthe Board of Health passed resolutions supporting bans on smoking in public places, Board president Karen Witt said.
Contrary to some speculations, the Board didn’t “fail” to back the city council proposal, Witt said, but rather it decided to put its resolution backing the initiative on hold until the ordinance was introduced to the public and to the Board.
“Problems arose in that the Council members had not yet made a formal public announcement of the initiative and they had not presented, to the Board of Health, the initiative or ordinance for which support had been requested,” Witt said. “Therefore, the Board of Health chose to table action on the resolution.”
She added that the Board of Health feels that it has clearly demonstrated its support for smoke-free environments in passage of previous resolutions.
Duax also said the smoking issue is one of worker’s rights, where employees at the bar might not want to be subject to constant smoke in the workplace.
Walker works at a bar and said he understands worker’s rights concerns about smoking. He said he supports the proposal, adding that many customers have talked about the issue with him before.
In terms of the major changes to UW-Eau Claire smoking policies, Duax said the ordinance doesn’t go as far as the university and would not super cede its jurisdiction.
“It should have no effect because they’ve already banned it more extensively than this ordinance,” he said. The biggest misconception about the proposal is its prohibition of smoking in public outdoor areas, Duax said, adding that some opponents have read into the ordinance as saying that they can never smoke in places like Carson or Owen Park. The provision, according to the proposal, states that smoking is prohibited in outdoor areas, including portions of city parks and areas outside if city facilities that are posted as no smoking by the city manager or parks and recreation department. But Duax said this only applies to temporary postings.
“What we wanted to say was there are some places in parks that from time to time you’ll want to post a no smoking sign,” he said. “In the summer we have concerts (at the bandshell at Owen Park). We would probably post those concerts for no smoking then take them down . it’s just temporary.”
All in all, Duax said he is expecting a strong turnout from both sides during the March 24 public forum.
“A lot of proponents will turn out or have been invited to, and I’m sure the Tavern League will stage a protest,” he said. “If this passes, they know the day is soon coming when the state legislature can’t turn its back and will have to act. It’s just taking longer in Wisconsin than it should have.”