Mission Statement

The mission of re:TH!NK, the Lakeshore Tobacco Prevention Network, is to improve the health of our residents by reducing tobacco use and exposure through prevention strategies which include community outreach and involvement to move policy forward collaboratively, across our multi-jurisdictional area.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New York's Parks Go Smoke Free

Earlier this week, New York enanced their smoke-free air law by making it illegal to smoke in parks. On the first day the "new" law took effect, Monday the 23rd, Mother Nature helped by making it rain. By bringing rain, she prevented everyone from lighting up for the day.

On the second day, a reporter from the NY Times took to the park to test the law. Although he escaped without a citation or a police contact, he ran into some fellow New Yorkers who "educated" him on the law. The reporter, Alan Feuer, wrote an article about his experience which you can read below.

His story reminded me of our smoke-free air law here in Wisconsin. Our statistics might show that law enforcement didn't have to write tickets and some then believe "what's the purpose for having the law?". But the law uses fellow Wisconsinintes to enforce the law, using people to promote/educated others about the law. Which makes social norms more powerful that legal laws.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sheboygan's Smoke-Free Ordinance

The City of Sheboygan's smoke-free ordinance is one of a handful of municipalities being challenged by the Tavern League because their definitions of "enclosed space" and "substantial wall" are different than the State's.

City officials took steps to make the law easier to understand and enforce in June of 2010 when they adopted language suggested by the Department of Commerce. Sadly, the Tavern League seemingly neglected to inform Sheboygan tavern owners of the difference in definitions resulting in several "smoking rooms" that do no comply with the city ordinance. And now the Tavern League is challenging the legality of the ordinance language.

It is important to remember that the most important reason this law went into effect was to protect workers and the public from exposure to secondhand smoke. It is also important to note that no where in the state law, does it say that "smoking rooms" are okay. The technicalities come into play when someone tries to define where you can smoke by reading language that explains where you can't smoke.

I totally agree that several of the definitions in the state law are confusing. And I apologize to all parties involved that a year ago no one really knew what the definitions meant or who was the "all powerful" that could say "Yes, you can smoke in here." That's not the point of the law however. The point is that smoking should be done outside. Public Health doesn't want to say "you can smoke in here" because we don't want anyone smoking "IN" anywhere.

Last week I had the pleasure to accompany a Sheboygan Police Office, City Attorney and two Building Inspectors on visits to 10 different establishments all that had "smoking rooms." Only two had enough open air space in the walls to not meet the city's definition of "enclosed space" therefore, being able to allow smoking. The other eight failed compliance with the city's ordinance and the state law.

We gave tavern owners clear answers about what was allowable and what was not, and answered questions they had. I realize that our answers might not have been what they wanted to hear and that they are frustrated about spending thousand of dollars and countless hours building their "smoking rooms." We are just there to help them comply with the law/ordinance. Sadly these owners had gotten some misinformation a year ago, acted on that misinformation, and now they're questioning everything and pointing fingers. Its unfortunate that trying to protect people's health has come to this, but I'm hopeful that this will turn into something positive after the smoke clears (pardon the pun;-).

The ordinance will be looked at again sometime in June and re:TH!NK will be available to offer assistance as needed. We'll keep you posted.

To read the latest "Sheboygan Press" article regarding the ordinance, click here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Taking a Punch in the Gut

Wisconsin's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program took a "punch" yesterday to its funding. The state budget committee dramatically changed course by voting to double its cuts to the program. The move was part of a larger omnibus amendment and comes less than two weeks after the committee voted in favor of a modest 10% reduction.

This decision comes with a big price tag. Wisconsin's adult smoking rate is at an all-time low of 20%, with reduced funding this will lead to a higher rate of smokers. Every 1% increase in this smoking rate, results in $641 million in additional long-term health care costs.

Cuts to the program is not what Wisconsin voters want. A poll commissioned earlier this month found an overwhelming 75% of voters support programs aimed at reducing tobacco use (see below post).

Although this "punch" hurts, the fight is NOT over. The budget is still in the early phases of debate and still needs to go through the Senate and Assembly and finally to Gov. Walker's office for signing.

We are in the process of "educating" officials to "re-invest" this money back into the program so that Wisconsinites continue to benefit from the Program now and into the future. It time for our "counter-punch", stay tuned...............

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wisconsin Voters Overwhelmingly Support Tobacco Control !!

Public Opinion Strategies recently completed a survey of 500 likely voters in Wisconsin. The survey was conducted May 4-7, 2011 using landline and cell phones. The poll has a margin of error of plus/minus 4.38%.

When asked if they supported or opposed the legislature's decision to preserve funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, 66% supported preservation of funding for such programs with support cutting across every major sub-group in the poll.

This was not surprising considering 74% of voters expressed concerns about tobacco use among youth and 75% believe funding prevention and cessation programs is important.

When posed with a proposal, "requiring little cigars and candy and fruit flavored tobacco products to be placed behind the counter so they are less accessible to young people", nearly 8 out of 10 (79%) Wisconsinites supported the proposal.

Support continues when it comes to closing the tobacco tax loophole. When asked if they supported or opposed "closing the tobacco tax loophole so candy and fruit flavored tobacco products are taxed at the same rate as cigarettes", 71% supported closing that tax loophole.

There is wide bi-partisan support for an agenda that makes it harder for children to have access to tobacco products, stregthens public health, and helps smokers quit smoking. Clearly, voter continue to support policies that keep tobacco products away from children. That's why the legislature's recent decision to continue funding for important prevention and cessation programs is widely applauded by Wisconsin voters from all political stripes.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Michigan sees increase in quitters

Michigan's tobacco cessation program has seen an immediate and sustained increase in current tobacco users seeking help quitting after their statewide smoke-free air law, as reported by the Detroit Press.

Wisconsin can expect to see similar numbers reported from residents utitlizing the WI Tobacco Quit Line. Unfortunately, the Quit Line's funding was drastically cut two years ago, so the services that people need to help the quit are less available.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

JFC voted for 10% cut to program

Joint Finance has voted to accept Gov. Walker’s proposed 10% cut to the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.

After some discussion of a motion to restore funding in various public health programs, that motion was voted down 4 to 12. The motion to adopt the 10% cut passed on a 15 to 1 vote (Sen. Grothman was the no vote).

We are pleased with the decision of Joint Finance Committee to keep the TPCP funded for 2011-2013 especially in the tough economic climate that WI is facing.

Tobacco Prevention and Control and re:TH!NK has a track-record of success in reducing the burden of tobacco on WI residents. The Committee’s decision to continue funding the program also shows our leaders recognize there is plenty of work to still be done on tobacco control and prevention in Wisconsin.