Wisconsin smoking ban has not hurt restaurants

by Bryna Godar

Two years after Wisconsin banned smoking in workplaces, restaurant sales remain largely unaffected, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

State tax-collection data showed that overall restaurant and tavern sales increased 1 percent in 2010 and 2 percent in 2011, mirroring national trends, the Journal Sentinel reported.

"It wasn't a boon to our industry, but it doesn't seem to have hurt our sales," said Pete Hanson, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

Bars and taverns experienced around a 4 percent decrease during the past two years, but Hanson said that trend has been ongoing for many years.

The law took effect two years ago Thursday and prohibits smoking in bars, restaurants, and other workplaces, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Madison had enacted a ban in 2005, and some communities had bans for more than a decade, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

Critics saw the ban as a government intrusion on private business that would drive away customers who wanted to smoke, the Journal Sentinel reported. Supporters, however, said the law protected the health of customers and workers and could bring more non-smoking customers into bars and restaurants, the Journal Sentinel reported.