The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

County considering smoking ban

With the passage of the citywide smoking ban in Eau Claire, the county has decided to take steps toward a similar resolution.

Chair of the Eau Claire County Board Bruce Willett said the Board has passed the city bill to a legal team to analyze the possibilities of extending the ban to the county.

“We started discussing it before the bill was passed by the city, but I think we wouldn’t have pursued it any further if the city hadn’t approved (the ordinance),” Willett said.

If passed, however, the county’s jurisdiction would only extend to unincorporated towns, such as the town of Washington, which does not have its own government body. Villages and cities that do, such as Fall Creek, Altoona and Augusta, would not be affected by the ban because the county can’t overrule city ordinances.

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Willett believes there’s a good possibility the ban would pass and is hoping it would contribute to leveling the playing field for bars around the area. While that is one reason for the proposal, Willett added that the Board’s number one concern is public health.

“The bottom line is the health aspect,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons the city did it and we’re doing it.”

Willett said the Board won’t be able to introduce the bill until at least the middle of May.

Senior Sean Hogan said he doesn’t mind the citywide smoking ban, but leaving the cities and counties to decide isn’t fair to businesses.

“It’s nice to not smell like smoke coming home from the bars,” Hogan said. “But it should be up to the owner of a bar whether they want to allow smoking or not.”

And while smoking outside might not be a problem for people during the summer, Hogan said weather throughout the rest of the year isn’t very inviting.

“Everyone knows how bad Wisconsin winters are,” he said. “It’s inconvenient for smokers and bar owners, but I don’t see it as that huge of an issue.”

Although he is a proponent of a statewide smoking ban, Rep. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire) said enacting a county ban is probably not very likely.

“The county might consider (a smoking ban), but in the end you have cities that the county has no jurisdiction over,” Smith said. “It won’t accomplish what they’re trying to accomplish because the towns themselves have to ratify anything that dramatic that the County Board passes.”

A countywide proposal would become complicated, Smith said, because people wouldn’t know where they can and can’t smoke throughout the county.

“I’m concerned that when you create this sort of battle between smokers and nonsmokers you’re going to make it even more difficult when we get to Madison again,” Smith said, referring to the next session of the state legislature, “because you’re adding more ammunition to the fire. I’d rather the county pass a resolution demanding a statewide ban.”

Smith added it would be “far more useful than causing more of a patchwork problem than we already have.”

Smith said the Tavern League of Wisconsin played a large part in fighting the statewide ban as well as citywide bans, but only made the situation worse by creating smoking islands of cities around the state.

“They wanted to block the statewide ban and now it’s far worse than that,” he said. “We need to pass it (at the state level) and get beyond it for the betterment of businesses and health of everyone. There’s a lot of important legislation not getting the attention it deserves because we’re spending time on this controversial issue.”

Willett said he wants to put pressure on the state to make the ban uniform by passing the first countywide ban in Wisconsin.

“It should be done by the state . it’ll come up again next fall but I feel we have to keep the pressure on,” he said. “It may come up and get turned down again but that doesn’t stop us from taking action.”

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County considering smoking ban