City of Appleton to consider smoking ban

William Dalsen

The Appleton Common Council is considering an ordinance that would outlaw smoking in nearly all indoor public places, including restaurants, bars, convention halls, and common areas in hotels. A public hearing on the ordinance will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 30, at 6 p.m. at Appleton West High School.
If approved, the ordinance would cover all local businesses with only minor exceptions: Retail tobacco stores and designated hotel rooms (up to 25 percent of the hotel’s capacity) are exempt from the measure, as is smoking on stage for a theatrical performance -so long as the audience is notified beforehand in the program. Also, there would be smoking “halos” similar to those in effect on the Lawrence campus surrounding all publicly owned buildings, the Appleton Public Library, the Transit Center, and city parks. Violation of the ordinance will carry a $125 fine for the first offence, and a $500 fine for subsequent offences.
Proponents of the measure cite worker safety as the primary motivation for the ordinance. Kurt Eggebrecht, Appleton’s health officer, noted that the dangers of secondhand smoke have been well-documented and pose a serious risk to employees. He also noted that long-term studies regarding smoking bans in California and New York show that such bans typically do not have adverse effects upon local economies.
Opponents of the proposed ordinance, in particular the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, are mobilizing to defeat the measure. The WRA states that businesses, and not the government, should decide business policy, and that following free market principles -which already seem to support smoking bans in restaurants -will best provide for people’s wishes. The WRA is also highly concerned with restaurants that have a large smoking clientele, arguing that such businesses could see a large drop in sales should the ban go through; in particular, there is concern among local bar owners that an Appleton ban could cause their clienteles to migrate to neighboring towns that do not have smoking bans.
Lawrentians are also voicing their views on the matter. LUCC representative Bill Hanna plans to propose a resolution that would be in opposition to the smoking ordinance at next week’s LUCC meeting. If the resolution is passed, he will present it to the Appleton Common Council at their next meeting. Hanna encourages all Lawrentians to speak to their representatives before next Tuesday’s meeting so that LUCC may accurately represent the views of the student body before the Appleton Common Council.
The proposed ordinance originated in a resolution proposed by Alderperson Shiloh Ramos in the Appleton Common Council, and was subsequently referred to the Appleton Board of Health. After discussion and the drafting of the ordinance, the Board approved it on Nov. 3 by a 4-1 vote, with only Mayor Timothy Hanna dissenting. The Common Council then considered the ordinance, and decided to have a public hearing before voting on it. It is not clear when the ordinance, if approved, would go into effect.