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Opinions voiced as Shorewood smoking ban looms

Residents weigh effects as smoking ban looms one year before state's

Bartender Angela Steiling feels at home among the smokers who visit the American Legion Post in Shorewood. She fears she’ll lose patrons and tips when the ban starts.

Bartender Angela Steiling feels at home among the smokers who visit the American Legion Post in Shorewood. She fears she’ll lose patrons and tips when the ban starts. Photo By Gary Porter

June 15, 2009

Shorewood — To hear Elias Chedid and Sam Triscari talk about them, smoking bans are about love and war.

Chedid, the non-smoking part-owner of Harry's Bar & Grill, initially opposed a smoking ban in Shorewood when it was proposed several years ago. But as the percentage of smoking customers continued to decline, he enacted a ban of his own at Harry's about a year ago.

The smoking regulars still come "and I've had a lot of hugs and kisses from everybody else," Chedid said.

Some folks at the American Legion, however, are downright combative about bans on an otherwise legal activity.

Triscari, one of the veterans who runs the bar and restaurant at the Shorewood post, says it's fine for business proprietors - but not the government - to prohibit smoking.

"These guys fought for choice and we won the war, and it's not illegal," said Triscari, 79, a Navy veteran and 60-year smoker. "You can't tell us we can't do this."

But that's what governments are doing.

Starting July 1, smoking in Shorewood will be prohibited not only in restaurants, taverns and other buildings open to the public, but also in parks. Bars and restaurants will be able to allow smoking outside their establishments.

That means Shorewood will get a one-year head start on the Wisconsin communities that don't have a local ban, which is most of the rest of the state.

A statewide ban, signed by Gov. Jim Doyle in May, goes into effect July 5, 2010.

Other than the provision that applies to Shorewood parks, the village and statewide bans are about the same. Casinos, cigar bars and specialty tobacco shops are exempt.

While some businesses worry about losing money, expected health benefits are touted:

• University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers studied bartenders in Madison and Appleton two months before and about one year after smoking bans took effect in those cities on July 1, 2005. Among non-smoking bartenders, "the prevalence of eight upper respiratory symptoms was significantly lower," according to the study, which predicted that a state ban would result in 1,900 fewer bartenders experiencing wheezing or "whistling" in the chest.

• Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco reviewed 26 studies on the effects of smoking bans on smokers in workplaces in the United States, Australia, Canada and Germany. In a paper published in 2002, the researchers said bans were associated with a 3.8% decrease in the number of smokers and a decrease of three cigarettes per day among those who continued.

• The VicHealth Centre for Tobacco Control in Melbourne, Australia, reviewed 21 studies on the economic impact of smoking bans. Findings published in 2002 found no negative impact on measures such as taxable sales receipts.

Chedid said he had opposed Shorewood's ban because he feared it would make the village an island, chasing cigarette-loving customers to watering holes just beyond the border. But at Harry's, so few customers ask for ashtrays anymore that it was easy to go smoke-free, he said.

"When I saw the market shift, I went with it," Chedid said.

But at the legion hall, Triscari estimates that a large majority of the customers are smokers - even Friday fish fry diners - and that he'll lose 30% of his bar business during the year between the start of the Shorewood smoking ban and the statewide ban.

As for health concerns, Triscari understands the risk of smoking - he's had throat cancer - but he still believes in free choice, saying, "I don't believe smoking is going to kill everybody."

Even at the legion hall, however, opinions are mixed.

Bob and Marcia Schultz said they can't wait for cleaner air inside the basement tavern.

"The secondhand smoke definitely is a danger to your health," said Bob, who quit smoking nearly 20 years ago.

Bartender Angela Steiling, however, is a smoker and hates government bans. And she's sure the Shorewood ban means she'll collect fewer tips over the next year as American Legion customers leave for bars a few blocks away that will still allow smoking.

"There's a lot of people that say they'll still come down, but I'll believe it when I see it," Steiling said.

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