New Poll: Wisconsin’s Smoke-Free Air Law More Popular Than Ever

Voters support including e-cigarettes under the law

(July 5, 2014)

   WI Smokefree  

Nearly four years after it went into effect the law that got the cigarette smoke out of public places in Wisconsin is more popular now than ever before. According to a new Public Opinion Strategies poll, 86 percent of Wisconsin voters approve of the law. By comparison, 75 percent of voters said they supported the law in 2011.

“The more Wisconsinites experience smoke-free air, the more they like it,” said Dona Wininsky, Director of Public Policy and Communications for the American Lung Association in Wisconsin. “Ensuring all Wisconsin workers breathe clean, smoke-free air on the job is important for the health of everyone in our state.”

By a margin of 85 percent to just eight percent, Wisconsin voters also believe the rights of employees and customers to breathe clean smoke-free air in bars and restaurants are more important than the rights of smokers to smoke indoors. Even a majority of smokers, 59 percent, say they should step outside to light up.

“Overall, the smoke-free air law has been positive for business owners, employees and patrons alike,” said Pete Hanson, vice president of public affairs for the Wisconsin Restaurant Association. “While most restaurants went smoke-free voluntarily prior to the state law, even the establishments that waited until the law kicked in are generally happy with the result. Most say they wouldn’t go back, even if they could.”

Strong support for clean indoor air is also reflected in voters’ preference for including electronic cigarettes in the smoke-free air law. Sixty-two percent of voters say they support prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in places where smoking is already prohibited.

Electronic cigarettes are battery powered devices designed to deliver a heated vapor of nicotine and other chemicals to the user. Little is known about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes on either the users or bystanders. Several Big Tobacco companies have begun selling e-cigarettes, including RJ Reynolds, Lorillard and Altria. The Public Opinion Strategies survey showed that most Wisconsinites were leery of e-cigarettes because of Big Tobacco’s history of misleading the public about the safety of its products.

“There’s simply no substitution for clean indoor air,” added Wininsky. “Until we better understand the health impacts of e-cigarettes, we should err on the side of caution and limit public exposure to the chemicals emitted from e-cigarettes.”

There are several marketing ads for e-cigarettes that encourage smokers to use the products when they are in places where they cannot use traditional cigarettes. In addition to the unknown health effects, this use can also create confusion for business owners and the public.

Wisconsin will mark four years smoke-free July 5. The poll of 600 likely voters was conducted June 16-18.