In a nutshell

Current Wisconsin law prohibits smoking in most indoor locations that are not private residences.

The law defines smoking as burning or holding, or inhaling or exhaling smoke from, any lighted smoking equipment containing tobacco. That includes cigars, cigarettes and pipes.

This bill (SB440) would make it clear that in terms of the smoking ban, the term “smoking” does not include holding, or inhaling or exhaling vapor or a vaporized solution from, an electronic device that does not contain tobacco, such as an electronic cigarette (or e-cigarette).

The case for it

Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, who introduced the measure, said some people believe the current smoking law is ambiguous as to whether it includes electronic cigarettes.

“From a freedom perspective, we don’t want to have an e-cigarette person standing outside in the cold,” Grothman said. “We want to clarify that they can smoke in a bar.”

He said of the current law, “I think it’s ambiguous, so we’ve got to shut down the ambiguity.”

The case against it

Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, the lead sponsor of the smoking ban in the Senate, said he has not yet seen the bill, which was just introduced on Wednesday.

But Risser added that he doesn’t believe the current law needs any changes.

“I don’t think we need an exemption to the bill we passed,” Risser said.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association and Health First Wisconsin, formerly Smoke Free Wisconsin, have registered in opposition to the bill.

To get involved

To contact your lawmaker about this or any other bill, call the legislative hotline, which is staffed from 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. weekdays at 608-266-9960 or 800-362-9472. To send an email, go to the Legislature’s website at, select “Assembly” or “Senate” and then “Email directory.”

— Mary Spicuzza