'Breathing easier:' July 5 marks 10 years since Wisconsin passed its Smoke-Free Indoor Air Law

MADISON -- On Sunday, July 5 it will have been ten years since Wisconsin's Smoke-Free Indoor Air Law went into effect. Now, state officials say cigarette smoking rates have clearly dropped.

A news release indicates in 2008, before the law passed, 20 percent of Wisconsin adults smoked cigarettes. By 2018, the rate had dropped to 16 percent. High school youth cigarette smoking rates dropped from nearly 21 percent in 2008 to nearly 5 percent in 2018. State cigarette taxes were also increased during this time period and contribute to this reduction.

Wisconsin's smoke-free law prohibits smoking in enclosed public spaces and has protected Wisconsinites from the hazards of secondhand smoke. Many communities have local ordinances that also prohibit the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices in restaurants and bars, protecting an estimated 2 million Wisconsin residents, about 36 percent of the state’s population, from secondhand smoke.

DHS Secretary-Designee Andrea Palm issued the following statement in the news release:

"Wisconsin is breathing easier today thanks to this law, but we know there are many people in our state who still smoke. We urge smokers to take advantage of the programs available to help them to quit, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people who smoke are believed to be more susceptible to the virus, and can become severely ill with it."

Despite the law’s exemption for casinos, several Wisconsin tribes have moved toward a smoke-free environment in their casinos, and more are now doing so in light of COVID-19.

People who need support to quit smoking can call toll free at 1-800-Quit-Now.