Wisconsin to go smoke-free?

Gov. Jim Doyle
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle is proposing a statewide smoking ban and an increase in the cigarette tax to battle smoking-related health issues.
MPR Photo/Sea Stachura

(AP) - Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle says he's launching a broad attack on tobacco to make Wisconsin the nation's health care leader.

He said Wednesday he wants to ban smoking in all public places, including restaurants, bars and workplaces.

His comments come on the same day that a statewide smoking ban bill was introduced in the Minnesota State Senate.

Doyle said he also wants to increase the cigarette tax in Wisconsin by $1.25 per pack, up from the 77 cents now charged.

Doyle says he'll ask lawmakers to approve the tax increase and smoking ban in his State of the State address next week.

By contrast, Minnesota's cigarette tax is currently $1.49 per pack.

A Tavern League of Wisconsin lobbyist, Scott Stenger, says the group would like an exemption from the proposed smoking ban for small mom-and-pop taverns. He questions whether such a law would be followed.

But Doyle says a uniform statewide ban would be the best policy, and he believes people would follow the law.

The governor is also proposing refinancing Wisconsin's tobacco settlement bonds, which he says would free up $600 million to put in a new fund along with proceeds from the tax increase.

He says the fund would generate $30 million in interest per year to pay for expanded anti-smoking efforts and the rising cost of smoking-related illnesses.

Several states have smoking bans in place for certain public places. The following states have smoking bans in all workplaces, restaurants and bars: Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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