Report finds dramatic changes in bars, restaurants after smoking ban

Air quality in restaurants and taverns has improved 92 percent following this summer’s enactment of a statewide workplace smoking ban, according to a state report released this week.

The report’s results also show that dangerous small-particle levels thought to cause cancer declined to safe levels, giving supporters of the law new ammunition for arguing in favor of the law’s potential public health benefits.

Owner Ryan Shultz cleans the top of the bar Wednesday at the Polack Inn in Wednesday. One observation Schultz has made since the smoking ban is the cleanliness of his bar. “There’s not nicotine on everything,” he said. “It’s different for sure.”

Owner Ryan Shultz cleans the top of the bar Wednesday at the Polack Inn in Wednesday. One observation Schultz has made since the smoking ban is the cleanliness of his bar. “There’s not nicotine on everything,” he said. “It’s different for sure.”

“What that air quality study did was really support what we knew all along: That if we eliminated secondhand smoke from the environment, the air quality would go up,” said Dot Kalmon, coordinator for the Central Wisconsin Tobacco Free Coalition.

And for tavern owners — even those who weren’t entirely in favor of the ban — the improved air quality is noticeable.

Ryan Schultz, owner of The Polack Inn tavern in Wausau and a smoker himself who initially thought bars should be allowed to choose if they allowed smoking, said he has enjoyed coming to work in a building that no longer is saturated with smoke every day.

“There’s not nicotine on everything,” he said. “It’s different for sure.”

The report, published by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, measured air quality in more than 200 Wisconsin bars and restaurants both prior to and after the ban’s enactment.

Researchers concluded that 97 percent of the bars and restaurants now have “good” or “satisfactory” air, based on Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources standards. Prior to the ban, 87 percent of the tested establishments had “unhealthy” air, the report said.

“It’s absolutely cleaner and absolutely better,” said Mark Loppnow, owner of Loppnow’s Bar in Wausau, where smoking was permitted prior to the ban.

Loppnow said it’s too soon to tell, but he suspects the lack of cigarette smoke in the air will result in less maintenance and cleaning for his business, and will protect the 14 plasma TVs in the bar.

But despite the improved air quality, an array of opinions still swirl around the ban.

Schultz said that though he enjoys his workplace, it’s hard for him to get away from the bar during a busy night to have a cigarette, and that he still gets mixed reports from his customers.

“People who don’t smoke appreciate it, obviously,” he said in regards to the air quality. “But there’s also the other side of that. People who do smoke get ornery about not being able to smoke after a meal.”

At Wiggly Field tavern in Weston, employees and patrons have been breathing clean air since 2009, when the owners decided to make the bar smoke free ahead of the state ban.

Joanne Paluch, who owns Wiggly Field with her husband, Pat Paluch, said the smoke odor was gone immediately after they cleaned the bar from top to bottom and added a fresh coat of paint.

“It’s definitely better for everyone,” she said. “It has to be.”

source: wausaudailyherald.com

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