New Orleans considering a smoking ban

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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…)

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