National RWJF SmokeLess States Program Helps Wisconsin Decrease Smoking Rates Among Middle and High School Students and Implement Tobacco-Control Efforts

From April 1997 to March 2004, the Wisconsin SmokeLess States® project, with first the Tobacco-Free Wisconsin Coalition and then SmokeFree Wisconsin as the lead organization, conducted statewide activities to reduce tobacco use, particularly among children and youth.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) national program SmokeLess States® National Tobacco Policy Initiative.

Key Results

Among the results of the project are the following:

  • Smoking rates decreased 50 percent among middle school students and 27 percent among high school students, and cigarette consumption decreased 11 percent among adults.
  • Wisconsin increased its cigarette excise tax by 18 cents, from 59 to 77 cents per pack.
  • Wisconsin put aside $23.5 million per year in funding for a statewide tobacco control program in 1999, despite a severe state fiscal situation (a $3.2 billion deficit); although these funds were later cut to $10 million per year, this was still the largest expenditure on public health in Wisconsin's history.
  • Wisconsin increased the number of smoke-free communities: 19 cities and one county passed smoke-free restaurant ordinances and Madison passed a smoke-free workplace policy and a clean indoor air ordinance.
  • Milwaukee passed one of the nation's strongest ordinances banning tobacco billboards/outdoor advertising.
  • Wisconsin passed Youth Access legislation, restricting cigarette vending machines and the "give-away" of tobacco products to adult-only locations and allowing local communities to raise their tobacco license fees from $5 to $100.
  • Wisconsin passed a SmokeFree Dorms bill, which bans smoking in all University of Wisconsin dormitories and residence halls.
  • SmokeFree Wisconsin successfully fended off repeated attempts by the tobacco and restaurant industries to pass preemption legislation.
  • SmokeFree Wisconsin helped create a new awareness in the state about the dangers of secondhand smoke and the need for tobacco prevention and control.