By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Mar 14, 2011 at 10:40 AM

Ask bartenders and bar owners about the effects of the smoking ban in Wisconsin and the results will be all over the map.

While the jury may still be out on how the ban is affecting the economics of the business, a UW-Milwaukee study says that bartenders in the state, "are reaping significant health benefits as a result of the state's new smoke-free law."

UWM surveyed 531 bartenders before and after the law went into effect last July. The report, released today, notes that, "eight smoking-related upper respiratory health symptoms were reduced, some by as much as 36 percent. Symptoms included wheezing, shortness of breath, sore throats and coughing first thing in the morning."

"These symptoms represent immediate health effects that can be easily assessed," says Karen Palmersheim, researcher at UWM's Center for Urban Initiatives and Research (CUIR) and lead study author.

"More importantly, they serve as precursors of more serious diseases that can develop over time like emphysema, heart disease and cancer."

A baseline survey was conducted two months before the law went into effect, with a follow-up survey conducted three to six months afterward.

Palmersheim has also studied health effects of Madison's and Appleton's smoke-free ordinances and she notes that this report confirms the result of the studies in those cities.

"A comprehensive body of research documenting the serious adverse health effects of secondhand smoke provides a powerful rationale for prohibiting smoking in all public places," Palmersheim said. "These policies save lives and related health care dollars."