Wisconsin bars and restaurants are reaping more than health benefits from the statewide workplace smoking ban that went into effect three years ago Friday.
According to the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and state tax data, bars and restaurants showed a 4 percent increase in revenue from the 2011 to 2012 calendar year.
Dona Winisky, director of public policy and communication for the American Lung Association in Wisconsin, said the increase in revenue is not a surprise.
“We always had evidence from other states that when you enact a smoke-free air law revenues would at least be the same or go up,” Winisky said. “Wisconsin is very consistent with other states on that front.”
Maureen Busalacchi, executive director of Health First Wisconsin warns it is not true for all businesses.
“I’m sure it’s not universal in the hospitality industry,” Busalacchi said. “Every business reacts differently to change.”
Wisconsin Act 12, commonly referred to as a workplace smoking ban, was signed by Gov. Jim Doyle on May 19, 2009, and went into effect July 5, 2010. It prohibits smoking in bars, private clubs, restaurants and other venues.
Jon Walters, kitchen manager of Wildcat Lanes in Verona, said business has remained steady, but said he has patrons who still wish they could have a cigarette with their drink every now and then.
“People said they would stop coming in but that didn’t happen,” Walters said. “Business remains steady.”
A study by UW-Milwaukee in 2011 followed 531 Wisconsin bartenders and showed as much as a 36 percent decrease in secondhand smoke and respiratory symptoms after the smoking ban.
“The study showed marked improvements in terms of symptoms such as coughing and wheezing,” Winisky said.
Walters, a smoker himself, said he hasn’t noticed a difference in his health but notices “the environment is nicer and healthier.”
In 2011, a study conducted by advocacy group SmokeFree Wisconsin showed 90 percent of Wisconsin residents surveyed go out to eat and drink the same or more often now that the state is smoke-free.
While Walters said he enjoys having a cigarette with a cocktail every once in a while, being able to go out and not have smoke around him is a nice change.
“It’s nice when you go out, especially to some of those danker places where everyone was chain smoking,” he said.