Wisconsin Bans Workplace Smoking

The Wisconsin smoking ban, which prohibits smoking in virtually every workplace, goes into effect on July 5, 2010. The 2009 Wisconsin Act 12 is more restrictive than many other state smoking bans. It requires business owners to enforce the non-smoking law, and provides greater penalties for business owners who fail to do so.


The Wisconsin non-smoking law prohibits smoking indoors in public places, including workplaces with two or more walls. This prohibits smoking in warehouses, auto shops, taverns, restaurants, sports arenas, theaters, private clubs and stores. Smoking is banned in all state and local government offices, all schools, and prisons. The law also bans smoking on public transportation and even in bus shelters.


Restaurants and bars may permit smoking in a designated outdoor area such as a patio or porch, as long as the space has only one wall. The state law permits smoking outdoors, even inches away from an open door or window.


Many states permit residents of nursing homes to smoke in certain designated areas. Wisconsin will not. All hospitals, clinics and nursing homes are included in the smoking ban.


The new law repeals an earlier statute that allowed a business owner to designate certain areas where smoking was permitted, such as private offices or an employee break room. Smoking is banned throughout the employer’s building, including cafeterias, break rooms, restrooms, vehicles, elevators and even private offices within a public building.


Under the law, even holding a lit cigarette, pipe or other smoking implement without inhaling or exhaling is smoking.


Wisconsin employers are required to eliminate ashtrays, and to prominently display non-smoking signs and no smoking posters.


In addition, by law the employer must take the following steps to enforce the Wisconsin Smoking Ban 

  • Refuse to serve a patron who is smoking in a bar, restaurant or private club
  • Ask a patron or employee who lights up to stop smoking
  • Ask the patron or employee to leave the building if he or she continues to smoke
  • Take appropriate measures against an employee who is smoking indoors
  • Call the police if the patron or employee who is smoking refuses to leave 

Any employer who fails to enforce the smoking ban is subject to a fine of $100 per day.

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