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.”