The Wisconsin legislative session is wrapping up next week, and an important issue is still on the table that Rep. Rob Swearingen should advance.
Assembly Bill 225, authored by Northwoods Rep. Jeff Mursau, would require stores to display all tobacco products behind the counter. Currently, cigarettes and chewing tobacco must be displayed that way, but other tobacco products such as little cigars can be on the sales floor in easy reach of children. We have photos of these products on the same racks as candy and chips. The same logic that tells us children shouldn’t be able to browse cigarettes explains why all tobacco products belong behind the counter.
It’s simple common sense to treat all tobacco products alike and put them behind the counter. It sends a clear message about the health dangers of all tobacco products.
This bill has strong bipartisan support – something we don’t see enough of these days. It has 45 co-sponsors from across the state – equally split between Republicans and Democrats. The bill has the support of a diverse list of more than 20 health organizations ranging from health systems to insurers to patient advocacy groups like the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. The bill is also not opposed by the associations that represent the main retail sellers of tobacco products – the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers and Continence Store Association and the Wisconsin Grocers Association.
The bill passed unanimously out of a Senate committee, and passed the full Senate last fall. It was so non-controversial, that a roll call vote was not even required.
Unfortunately, despite this broad support, the bill has stalled in the State Assembly Committee on State Affairs, which is headed by Rep. Rob Swearingen. He presided over a hearing where 20 groups or individuals supported the bill and only one out-of-state company, Swisher International, registered in opposition. But still, the bill has not received a committee vote.
With very little time left in the legislative session, we hope that the clock doesn’t run out on this simple bill that has broad and deep support. We respectfully ask that Rep. Rob Swearingen schedule a vote for this bill in the committee or move it to the Assembly floor for a full vote. This bill has too much support to end its progress toward passage with inaction in a committee.
The session ends next Thursday. Let’s see a vote to place all tobacco products where they belong, behind the counter.
Wisconsin American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network government relations director