Category Archives: New Orleans

Study: Indoor air pollution levels in New Orleans have dropped 96 percent because of smoking ban


A predictable result, but still a stunning number when you think about it.

According to a study done by the Roswell Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., the level of small particulates pollution in New Orleans has dropped 96 percent since the city imposed a ban on smoking in bars and clubs in April

Ninety-six percent. Man. That’s a lot of crap people were breathing before. In casinos, traditionally the most smoky venues of all, the small particulates level dropped 99 percent. So, all that’s left is like a few dust motes.

From a Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids press release:

“We’ve heard from so many people in our bars, restaurants and casino who say they feel better and can breathe easier now without the stress of knowing they are in an unhealthy environment,” said New Orleans Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell, the ordinance’s chief sponsor. “The air is definitely cleaner in New Orleans – and the city has made a very smooth transition to this improvement. This makes it clear that we did the right thing.”

“The smoke-free law has always been about protecting people’s health by creating healthier air for all to enjoy,” said Tonia Moore, associate director, the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL). “This study demonstrates conclusively that the law is protecting the health of New Orleans hospitality workers, entertainers and patrons who were previously endangered by the harmful air pollutants in secondhand smoke. They and their families have to be thrilled that they have significantly reduced their exposure to the harmful health effects of secondhand smoke, including increased risks of cancer and heart disease.”

Now, the law was fought tooth and nail by a coalition of New Orleans restaurants, bars and casinos (including some restaurants that are already smokefree 😕 …. which is really curious to me.) The coalition filed suit against the law passed last year, but the lawsuit was dismissed. The businesses behind the lawsuit were concerned that the smoking ban would cost them customers and revenues.

Next, I would love to see the data on how the smoking ban is affecting tourism and business in New Orleans. It would probably be at least December until we could see some preliminary 6-month data on sales taxes, hotel taxes, etc., in the city.

This month is also the 10-year anniversary of the Katrina disaster in New Orleans. I found a bunch of stories on how tourism in the city is thriving, even if some neighbourhoods have not been rebuilt (and may never be rebuilt).

Here’s a nice tidbit about the tourism business in New Orleans from the Times-Picayune:

From a tourism perspective, here are the facts from UNO’s Hospitality Research Center.  In 2006, the city hosted 3.72 million visitors (a 74 percent decline) who spent $2.89 billion, a 42 percent decline from pre-disaster numbers. In 2014, visitors numbered 9.52 million and their spending was $6.81 billion.

So, in short, the number of tourists visiting New Orleans and the amount of money they spend has more than doubled since the year after Katrina. I mean, compared to where New Orleans was in 2006, businesses are worried about some kind of perceived hit from a smoking ban? Please. I mean, in 2005, it looked like the city would never recover. Be thrilled with how New Orleans is doing. Don’t be freaked out by a little thing like a smoking ban … that’s a pretty trivial challenge compared to Katrina.


Court upholds New Orleans smoking ban

new orleans 2

A lawsuit filed by several bars against New Orleans’ recently passed smoking ban was tossed out of court by a judge this week.

A coalition of bars made a number of arguments on the technicalities of the law, mostly claiming that the law was “too vague” (I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that argument before, I’m not sure how a smoking ban could possibly be “vague.” The whole concept of a smoking ban is pretty straightforward), but the judge ruled that their arguments had no merit.

Smoking bans almost always survive legal challenges — I’d say 95 percent to 99 percent of the time. No state smoking ban has ever been overturned, though multiple lawsuits were filed several years ago when a flurry of states passed smoking bans. Only in a handful of small towns and cities (Jackson, Wyo., comes to mind) have lawsuits been successful in overturning smoking bans. So, this struck me as being kind of a frivolous lawsuit.

I would suggest to these bar owners to give the ban a damn chance, it only went into effect April 22, about six weeks ago, before freaking out about it. Smoking bans in most other localities have had little or no effect on the economy. I would argue people are still going to vacation in New Orleans, especially since there’s varying level of smoking bans in about 31 states and most major cities in the country, so they’re used to it. Geez. I predict a year or two from now, most people will be used to it, the economy of New Orleans will be humming along just fine and some people will still be grumbling about it and claiming its cost them business (but they will have no proof of this).



New Orleans’ smoking ban becomes official: Media goes wild, lawsuit filed

A New Orleans bar holding a smoking party.


New Orleans’ ban on smoking in bars and casinos (smoking in restaurants was already banned in Louisiana) went into effect this week. And two things happened. 1) A million media outlets are fascinated by the story and wrote about it and 2) The inevitably doomed-to-fail lawsuit has already been filed. In fact, it was filed before it even took effect.

The city passed the ban several weeks ago to a considerable amount of hoopla. It’s the first major comprehensive smoking ban passed by a major city in quite some time. I keep saying this — pretty much everywhere that is going to pass smoking bans has already done it; and the places that haven’t passed them tend to be conservative, anti-regulatory government bodies, mostly in the South at this point.

NPR and the New York Times did stories on New Orleans’ smoking ban. Apparently, a bunch of bars in New Orleans had “smoke-ins” and smoking parties the night before the law took effect to ccommemorate the end of smoky bars and clubs. I love this quote from the Times story:

“This is one of the smokiest bars in town,” said Steve Zweibaum, 57, the owner of a jazz venue nearby who, while smoking a cigarette, spoke of how he had quit smoking long ago. “I know a bunch of people who don’t come in here because of the smoke,” he said, listing names. “Maybe they’ll come back.”


This goes to the heart of one of my gripes about anti-smoking ban advocates. They claim smoking bans hurt small businesses such as bars and pubs. They’ll dig up studies proving their point and for every study they did up, I can dig up five studies showing smoking bans don’t hurt the hospitality industry. This is an argument I don’t think I’ve had in at least three years because hardly anyone makes these claims of economic devastation anymore.

Anyway, I have always argued this. Maybe there are some people who refuse to go out anymore because of smoking bans, maybe out of spite, and doubtful for very long if they do. And for every one of those people, I’m convinced there is an equal if not greater number of people who haven’t been going out because they hate cigarette smoke and hate being around it, and now will go to the clubs, bars, whatever.

Anyway, despite reams of evidence stating otherwise, a number of New Orleans businesses have already filed a lawsuit against the ban (weirdly enough, they filed it before it even took effect.). Harrah’s Casino is one of the plaintiffs. Some other bars and restaurants joined in, including two French Quarter restaurants where smoking is already banned (:/).


Anyway, I can’t wait for the economic impact studies about a year from now. I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict this law won’t hurt the overall hospitality business in New Orleans one bit. It might hurt Harrah’s Casino, at least short-term, we’ll see, but not the hospitality industry overall. Why do I believe this? Because so many other places that have imposed smoking bans haven’t seen the big doom-and-gloom predictions come true, and because most of the civilized world outside the Deep South already has smoking bans — so people are already used to them and have been for a few years now. I honestly can’t imagine people seriously canceling their vacation to New Orleans because they can no longer smoke in a club … particularly if they’re from New York … or Chicago … or New England … or California … or all of Canada … or any one of the 31 states with comprehensive smoking bans in place the past several years.

Anyway, good luck with the lawsuit. To my knowledge, not one lawsuit has ever been successful in overturning a statewide smoking ban or any smoking ban in a major city. (I think a suit to overturn a smoking ban in Jackson, Wyo., was successful).

Time Magazine did an interesting online story about whether the New Orleans smoking ban could lead to the roadblock to smoking bans finally being broken in the Deep South (I will say New Orleans is not the first major city in the South to have a smoking bans. Houston and Dallas both don’t allow smoking in bars and restaurants, for instance.) Smoking bans are either scattered or lax throughout the South, which also has the highest smoking rates in the nation and the highest death rates from lung cancer.

From the Time article:

“Unfortunately, with all the progress we’ve made in this country on smoke-free air over the last over 20 years, the Southeast United States has been a holdout at the state and local level,” said Chris Bostic, deputy director for policy at Action on Smoking & Health. “New Orleans, one of the bigger cities in the South, going smoke-free is a very positive step in the right direction.”

According to Time, several other communities in the South are looking at smoking bans in response to New Orleans’ ban.

From the article:

In Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi, for example, some cities have started the process of creating their own bans after hearing about the new policy in New Orleans, according to Cynthia Hallett, executive director at the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.

“A smoke-free New Orleans has had a positive ripple effect already,” Hallett said. “Local policy leads the way. You get more innovative, stronger laws.”

New Orleans passes comprehensive smoking ban

Mardi-Gras-fattens-businesses-in-New-Orleans-C4116DKM-x-largeThe New Orleans City Council Thursday night adopted — unanimously — a comprehensive smoking ban in the city. This is the first time I’ve written a post about the passage of a smoking ban in a long time. Pretty much everywhere that was going to pass a ban has already done it.

Louisiana already had a ban on smoking in restaurants, but the New Orleans council went one step further and banned smoking in all nightclubs and bars. New Orleans was one of the largest cities in the country without a comprehensive smoking ban. (I think San Antonio is the biggest city without a comprehensive ban … the city has a ban, but it’s full of a loopholes, so it doesn’t count in my book.).

There were some concerns during the council hearing that the new law could financially hurt city businesses. I would respond that the No. 1 industry in New Orleans is tourism obviously and most tourists are coming from areas of the country that already have smoking bans, so they are used to it. No one is going to stop coming to New Orleans because of a smoking ban.

Here is an editorial from the New Orleans Times-Picayune hailing the vote.

New Orleans considering a smoking ban


The City of New Orleans, famous for its iconic smoky blues and jazz clubs, is considering a full smoking ban which would apply to all bars and casinos.

This would be a great accomplishment for the anti-smoking movement. The political will behind smoking bans has withered in the past few years. I don’t believe there’s been a new statewide ban anywhere for at least three or four years (I believe Indiana was the last state to impose a restaurant smoking ban — in 2012. Thirty-nine states have partial or complete bans on indoor smoking, but over the past few years, the mantle of smoking bans has been passed on to cities and counties in those 11 remaining states, which are mostly in the South, all very conservative and have very anti-regulation state Legislatures.).

Anyway, Louisiana already has a statewide restaurant smoking ban. The New Orleans proposal would expand that ban to bars, clubs and taverns.

The American Cancer Society conducted a poll in mid-December finding that 67 percent of the respondents either “somewhat” or “strongly” support a total smoking ban for New Orleans, while only 32 percent “somewhat” or “strongly” oppose the total smoking ban.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they are more likely to go to bars or casinos if there is a smoking ban … and the number for regular smokers is higher — 64 percent (that doesn’t surprise me, plenty of smokers have told me they hate smoky bars, too.).

In a quote in this story from “Gambit,” a New Orleans news Website:

“We ask the New Orleans City Council to pass a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance protecting all workers,” said Amber Stevens, a cancer survivor who has volunteered with the ACS for 17 years. Stevens’ mother and husband also are cancer survivors. “I’m more likely to go into more places without breathing heavy smoke. … Why do we have to be punished? We love New Orleans entertainment as much as anyone else.”

There is opposition to the proposal, from the French Quarter Business League and (for some reason) the Louisiana State Police. The crux of their opposition is fear over lost revenues and lost taxes.

From the story:

In a Nov. 12 statement, Chris Young of the French Quarter Business League (FQBL) said the measure “will have a devastating impact on badly needed tax revenues that provide police and fire protection, maintain the streets, pays government employees and keeps the city moving ahead.” He added that the ordinance “cuts against New Orleans’ strong tradition of tolerance and diverse lifestyles.”

The Louisiana State Police projects a loss of $100 million in tax revenues over 2 years from the ban. A loss of $50 million a year? Seriously? Tourists will stop going to New Orleans because of a smoking ban? When most of those tourists are coming from parts of the U.S. that don’t allow smoking anywhere (39 states, remember)? Pshaw! (The American Cancer Association essentially said the same thing…)