Smoking in Big Easy bars, gambling halls to end in April

AP News
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Posted: Jan 30, 2015 3:39 PM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — In three months it will no longer be legal to smoke in bars and while gambling in the Big Easy.

On Friday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed into law a new ordinance that does away with smoking inside bars, gambling halls, stadiums and hotels in what will be a big change for a city known for its libertine ways.

"I'm really proud to sign this ordinance today," Landrieu said with city officials, musician Deacon John Moore and health professionals at his side.

There are more than 500 bars within the city limits and several large gambling establishments, including a Harrah's casino next to the French Quarter and a horse racing track. Bars and the gambling industry sought to stop the ban but failed. They said a smoking ban would hurt business.

The ban in Louisiana's metropolitan center is sparking discussion in Baton Rouge and Lafayette about whether those cities should pass their own smoking restrictions. In both places city leaders are discussing similar bans.

Recently, Baton Rouge's Mayor-President Kip Holden and medical professionals announced a campaign to highlight the dangers of smoking. Meanwhile, a Baton Rouge council member, Ronnie Edwards, has said she would be in favor of proposing a smoking ban.

Similarly, Lafayette City-Parish Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux has promised to propose a ban within three months. Boudreaux has said he wants to protect the health of wait staff, bartenders, musicians and others. In New Orleans, City Council members said they were persuaded to pass the ban to protect the health of workers in the entertainment industry.

"The courage of passing this ordinance has already had resounding effects as numerous other cities in Louisiana and across the U.S. have taken notice," said Jennifer Cofer of the American Lung Association of the Southeast.

In Louisiana, about 25 percent of adults smoke, according to federal data. Nationally, about 18 percent of adults smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Louisiana already has statewide bans on smoking in restaurants and in public buildings.

New Orleans was one of the last major U.S. cities where smoking in public places - generally bars - is allowed, according to the American Lung Association. The other cities are Philadelphia, Atlanta, Miami, Las Vegas, Fort Worth and Arlington, Texas, Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Florida, Virginia Beach, Virginia and Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The ban in New Orleans will take effect in late April when smokers — including those inhaling electronic cigarettes — will have to step outside.