Wisconsin Senate bill would expand indoor smoking ban to vapor products and marijuanaSubmitted: 06/03/2019
Stephen Goin
Stephen Goin

Wisconsin Senate bill would expand indoor smoking ban to vapor products and marijuana
NORTHWOODS - Taking a smoke break usually means going outside to have a cigarette. In Wisconsin, people don't have a choice.

In 2009, the state assembly passed a law that made smoking tobacco products illegal in public places, at work or in any enclosed space with two or more "substantial" walls. A bipartisan group of state lawmakers introduced a bill last week to add vapor products and marijuana to that ban.

Sen. Andrè Jaque (R-DePere) and Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison), the authors of Senate Bill 245, say health risks linked to vaping, like lung and cardiovascular diseases, inspired the legislation.

A decade after the original smoke-free air law, some people still look back fondly at the days when smoking was allowed indoors. Rob Swearingen, the owner of The Al-Gen Dinner Club in Rhinelander, jokes that the air purifiers still installed over the bar at his restaurant are antiques even though they were used just ten years ago.

"Smoking … it was just part of a lifestyle back then," said Swearingen.

When the state of Wisconsin passed the indoor smoking ban, Swearingen's restaurant was already phasing it out successfully. The Al-Gen went from having a separate smoking and non-smoking dining section to only allowing smoking where alcohol was sold separately from food.

"I think that society kind of just dictated that smoking was on the downturn," said Swearingen.

But the Former Tavern League president, now a Republican state assemblyman, says other businesses, like standalone bars, didn't fare so well.

"Those places were impacted quite negatively, because that customer base [sic] drinking and smoking went together," said Swearingen.

Tom Simic, owner of Northern Lights Vapor in Tomahawk, says the proposed ban is a step too far.

"I think more than anything it amounts to once again governmental overreach," said Simic.

He says the ban would be hard to enforce because e-cigs are easy to conceal and that the reported health risks are exaggerated.

"If they would look up some of the reputable studies out there I think they'd find it to be a bit different," said Simic.

He believes a ban on vaping indoors should be at the discretion of business owners. Swearingen agrees, adding that the expanded ban could be a further hit to businesses in his district. 

"To force the tavern around the corner to now go vape free doesn't seem like the right way to head," said Swearingen.

Simic says the bill won't stop his business, though. He's making sure his hard work doesn't go up in smoke, or in this case, vapor.

"We have helped in the last five years somewhere between 1,000 and 1,200 hundred people quit [smoking]," said Simic. "I think that's a good service for the community don't you?"

SB 245 was introduced and referred to the committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection.

Another bill targeting vapor products was introduced in March by many of the same authors and cosponsors of SB 245. SB 73 would prohibit the sale of vapor products to minors. 

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VILLAGE OF ARPIN - A deputy with six years of experience shot and killed a suspect and injured one of his fellow officers in Wood County last week.

Tuesday, the state Department of Justice released information on those who were involved.

The DOJ reports Deputy Nathan Dean shot and killed 32-year-old Logan Johnsrud during a fight June 11.

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LAND O' LAKES - A busy morning for Lois Laux included something she's done hundreds of times, but a gallon of skim milk did more than come in handy for breakfast.  It marked the very first sale at Land O' Lakes' new -- and only--  grocery store.

"Oh, we've needed it for quite a while," Laux said.  "I think it's been at least two years that I've known we were actually going to get it. So, I'm glad it finally made it."

Charlie's Market opened to customers along County Highway B in the heart of town 31 months after the last-remaining grocery store closed.

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RACINE / MILWAUKEE - Two off-duty police officers have been killed in separate incidents in southeastern Wisconsin.

Racine police say Officer John Hetland was fatally shot Monday about 9:40 p.m. when he tried to intervene in an armed robbery at Teezers bar. And Milwaukee police say Officer Kou (koo) Her died early Tuesday when he was struck by a speeding driver who ran a red light at a Milwaukee intersection. Milwaukee Chief Alfonso Morales says Her had just finished his shift in the 4th District. Police have arrested a 34-year-old man who has a history of drunken driving.

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MADISON - The Wisconsin State Bar Association along with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marquette University law schools are preparing to honor long-time state Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

The bar and the law schools plan to hold a ceremony for Abrahamson in the state Capitol Tuesday evening. Speakers will include Gov. Tony Evers, former Gov. Jim Doyle and federal appellate judge and former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Diane Sykes.

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MADISON - A bipartisan proposal designed to make it easier for patients to get needed prescription drugs even when insurance companies force them to try less-expensive alternatives first is headed to Gov. Tony Evers.

The Wisconsin Assembly approved the bill Tuesday on a voice vote. The Senate previously passed the measure.

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What We're Working OnSubmitted: 06/18/2019

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:

The Oneida County Sheriff's Office is making it the number one priority to track down and arrest child sex predators. We'll talk to the captain of the sheriff's office about why they are cracking down on such predators and what steps they are planning to take to accomplish their goal.

We'll tell you how a group is trying to share a message to people across the Northwoods who live on a waterway about keeping their shorelines as natural as possible.

And after more than two years without a food market in Land O' Lakes, a new store opened up this morning to fill the gap. We'll talk to the property owner, the store manager and the store's very first customer to find out what it means to the community to finally have a food market in town.

We'll bring you this and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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TRIPOLI - A vehicle struck and killed a mother bear last Thursday evening on Hwy 8 outside of Tripoli. USDA Wildlife Services has been searching for her three orphaned cubs. They set up cub traps near the scene. After three days there have been no sightings. 

Wildlife Biologist David Ruid has been involved with the search and said rehab is the safest option for the cubs and people.

"In a lot of situations, if you don't capture and remove those cubs they're going to continue to hang out in that area and could be struck by a vehicle," said Ruid. "There's a potential for a vehicle accident. The best solution is to capture and rehab them for the year."

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