Wisconsin bartenders who don't smoke cigarettes feel healthier since the state went smoke-free in July, according to a new study by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Urban Initiatives and Research.

The study surveyed 531 bartenders in urban and rural areas in the two months before the law took effect and three to six months after. There was a 36 percent decrease in smoking cigarettes-related respiratory health symptoms, such as wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and sore throats.

The study surveyed only bars that allowed smoking cigarettes before the law.

Some Marshfield-area bartenders and bar owners, however, question the legitimacy of the survey. They say they haven't seen changes other than the odor, and the ban has cost them money.

Someplace Else, on the outskirts of Marshfield, was one of the few bars in the Marshfield area to allow smoking cigarettes before the ban. The city was smoke-free before the statewide ban.

Owner Myron Keding said his employees haven't noticed improvements in their health, but the business has seen a 25 percent profit loss. Keding said he doesn't smoke, but most of his employees do.

Keding is losing money, he said, because his bartenders now have to take more smoking cigarettes breaks, and some of his customers have stopped coming all together. This is despite the fact Keding built a $15,000 smoking cigarettes room for customers to use during the winter.

The study is part of a series that is meant to show the benefits of smoke-free air. Wisconsin is among 29 states with comprehensive statewide smoke-free air laws for bars and restaurants. The study collected information on the number of hours bar workers were exposed to secondhand smoke, prevalence of upper respiratory tract symptoms, attitudes toward smoking cigarettes in bars and restaurants and perceptions of risk related to secondhand smoke cigarettes exposure, as well as bartender smoking cigarettes.

Susan Hansen, an owner of Archie's Cocktail Lounge in Stevens Point, doesn't smoke. She said she thought she'd see a difference in her health after the ban.

"I have worked here for 33 years and I was kind of disappointed because I thought perhaps I would feel different, and I felt no change," she said. "All I could think of was perhaps that one builds up some type of immunity."

Hansen questioned the legitimacy of the survey, because all variables must be considered. For example, did the bartenders come from families that smoked? she asked. What quality ventilation systems did the bars have?

"A study to me, I challenge them all lately," Hansen said.

Mark Wanta, administrator of Moose Family Center 1572 in Stevens Point, said he doubts that since July 2010 anyone has seen any real benefits of the ban. It's too soon to tell. The only thing that has changed for him is that he goes home without a heavy cigarette smell on his clothes.

"Do I think it's helped anybody? It's helped the carpenters," he said referring to the many smoking cigarettes areas that have been built for bar customers. "I can't imagine anybody that was exposed (to smoke) for five, 10 years to say 'Oh, I feel better.'"

Wanta said he can't gauge whether the ban affected his business because the economy also is poor.

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