I don’t get the chance to post a lot of stories about smoking bans anymore, but lo and behold, another big city in the South has gone smokefree.
After seeing the success of New Orleans going smokefree a year ago, Louisiana’s second-biggest city, Baton Rouge, followed suit earlier this month, with a parish-wide smoking ban.
Louisiana already had a statewide smoking ban in restaurants, but now the two biggest cities in the state have banned smoking in all bars, casinos and restaurants.
Baton Rouge debated the issue for months before finally taking the plunge.
Reports are mixed about the smoking ban’s success in New Orleans. It remains popular with residents, with one poll showing 78 percent support, but Harrah’s Casino claims the ban cost the casino $35 million business (Honestly, I find that figure hard to believe. I really do. There are smokefree casinos all over the country doing just fine, so I suspect other economic factors are playing a role.).
So, with Baton Rouge jumping on board, there are few large cities left in the South without some level of smoking bans, though in many Southern cities, bans are just in restaurants. There aren’t any statewide bans in the Deep South and states have left the issue up to local communities.
“I asked (county commissioners) if it’s not the role of the government to protect people, then what is the role of the government?” said Tristan Deering, a senior at Grayson County High School.
Gary Logsdon, the county judge-executive, replied with a racist comment that suggested he believed President Barack Obama was a tyrant.
“I’m not black and I’m not Obama — and I’m not making you do anything,” Logsdon said.
Logsdon went on to add:
“And I love blacks and whites,” Logsdon said. “I respect blacks but, you know, I’m not Obama.”
I’m sure the guy loves blacks. I’m sure he really has a lot of black friends. Really. I have no doubt of this, because I’ve never, ever heard racists claim this before.
The poor teen went on to say he was “baffled,” by Logsdon’s comment. Hey, you aren’t alone, kiddo. I really think a lot of right-wingers just so hopelessly have Obama Derangement Syndrome, they can’t stop thinking or talking about him … or blaming him for everything under the sun. That’s all I can really figure here.
Maybe this guy is “Confederate1978” or whatever. This is a guy from Kentucky who trolls stories about smoking bans posting insane comments about government and Obama and blacks (though you can guess what he usually calls blacks, hint … it rhymes with “chiggers.”) The coincidence is actually kind of amazing here. I’ve seen ol’ Confederate’s name pop up in the comments section of many smoking ban stories for years now. I haven’t seen hide nor hair out of the guy for almost a couple of years.
Anyway, the smoking ban vote failed in Grayson County. Grayson County is a fairly rural county in central Kentucky. Despite being a centre of tobacco-growing and having one of the highest smoking rates, there’s actually a number of city and country full-blown smoking bans in Kentucky in places such as Louisville, Lexington and Bowling Green.
States hit hardest by the ravages of tobacco are often the least aggressive at hitting back, a USA TODAY analysis found. So a deadly culture of smoking lingers, which officials say is fueled relentlessly by tobacco companies targeting minorities and the poor.
• Big tobacco-growing states such as Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia have the poorest and sickest residents, yet spend less than 20% of the federal government’s recommended minimum for tobacco education and enforcement.
• States with the most smokers weaken their own tobacco control efforts with cigarette taxes of 60 cents or less, compared with $3.75 in Rhode Island and $4.35 in New York.
• Hard-hit states also do the least to restrict smoking in places such as restaurants and workplaces and impose penalties of $100 or less on businesses selling tobacco to children, compared with $10,000 in the most aggressive states.
I like to show this phenomena graphically. Here is a map of the states with the highest rates of lung cancer. Darker is bad:
Now, here is a map of the states with the lowest cigarette taxes. Red means low taxes:
Now, here is a map with showing indoor smoking bans. White means total smoking bans, black means no statewide smoking bans (yellow means weak smoking bans).
Wow, it’s absolutely amazing the correlation, isn’t it? Actually, it really is, I’m not trying to be snarky.
Like I said, I’ve been aware of this correlation for some time, Now throw in the other factor of states in the Deep South spending little on tobacco education. Again, I’ve been aware of this for some time, the USA Today article speaks about how little states spend from the $280 billion Master Settlement Agreement on tobacco education, using that money instead to balance their state budgets (In USA Today’s word — “fix potholes.”).
Also, not a coincidence. Where is most of the tobacco in the U.S. grown? In the Deep South.
From USA Today:
Critics say one reason some states aren’t very aggressive is that tobacco is woven tightly into their communities even as the number of tobacco farms continues to shrink. “You can look at a map of tobacco control policies and see that every state that has weaker policies is a tobacco-growing state,” says Yvonne Hunt, who heads the tobacco control research branch of the National Cancer Institute.
Sitting in a cancer education booth at a free health clinic in southwest Virginia this summer, pharmacy student Anesa Hughes tried to explain why smoking is so common in her area. It’s “such a cultural thing,” says Hughes, who walked behind a tiller on her family’s tobacco farm starting at age 8. “It’s like we’re in a time warp.”
It’s a self-destructive culture. A mentality that “tobacco has always been a part of our culture.” Well, so has racism … does that somehow make it a good thing? These states have the highest smoking rates — Kentucky and West Virginia have been the highest for a while now, and places like Alabama and Mississippi aren’t far behind. People literally killing themselves and stubbornly clinging to the idea that somehow the right to kill themselves correlates to “Liberty,” or something… because their cigarette taxes are low and they can light up pretty much anywhere they want, especially outside the big cities. It’s a frustrating, exasperating reality. “Maybe I’m killing myself, but ain’t no Obama telling me what to do…” or some such thing.
As an aside, most of these Southern states also lead the U.S. in rates of diabetes. Part of that is smoking, it’s now known that smoking is a factor in causing diabetes, part of it is poor diet, obesity, lack of health care, high rates of poverty, etc. The sickest part of the country … which does little or nothing about it. And the people there keep voting for the people who do little or nothing about it.
Surprise because the People’s Republic of China isn’t big on environmental or health regulations.
According to a study done by the local government, casino revenue, which has already been dropping the last few years, would be cut by about 4.6 percent if the ban was implemented. The study concludes that about 23 percent of the people who visit Macau are smokers and about 30 percent to 50 percent like to smoke while they are gambling.
SSM (A Chinese Health Agency) Director Lei Chin Ion made these estimates based on the assumption that 20 percent of the smokers who travel to Macau to gamble would go elsewhere if they couldn’t smoke.
According to this Macau News, smoking is already banned in mass gaming areas, but smoking lounges are allowed in casinos. A law being proposed would ban smoking on all casinos premises.
Clemson, the heart of tobacco country, recently announced that all tobacco products are banned on campus. The ban includes chew and e-cigarettes.
Many colleges and universities now ban tobacco products, even in deep red states like South Carolina, which have low taxes on cigarettes and lax tobacco control laws in general. No state in the Deep South has a full smoking ban, and only a few such as Georgia and Louisiana, even ban smoking in restaurants.
A really important study from the U.K, furthering bolstering the long-ago established benefit of smoking bans.
Many, many, many, many studies claim that smoking bans result in a drop in heart attack admissions in local hospitals. (These studies drive smokers’ righters and Michael Siegel out of their minds, but there are SO many of these studies that all reach the same conclusion, only a smoking fanatic would adore them.). A new study from the University of Edinburgh now suggests that stats back up the hypothesis that smoking bans result in lower rates of stillbirths and newborn deaths. According to this study, stillbirths and newborn deaths both dropped 8 percent.
It’s well known that smoking is a huge risk factor for stillbirths. This study backs the idea that secondhand smoke also causes stillbirths.
From the University Herald article:
“This study is further evidence of the potential power of smoke-free legislation to protect present and future generations from the devastating health consequences of smoking and second hand exposure to tobacco smoke,” Aziz Sheikh, co-director of the University of Edinburgh’s Center for Medical Informatics, said in a statement.
According to the article, the number of stillbirths and newborn deaths dropped by 1,500 in the U.K. in the four years since a smoking ban was put in in place. 1,500 lives saved, just in the U.K. How many thousands of lives have been saved in the U.S. and worldwide by similar smoking bans?
China is notoriously lax about enforcing any sort of environmental or public-health laws (this is why you don’t want to buy dog treats made in China), but according to this article, Beijing is serious about cracking down on smoking in bars, clubs and restaurants. It is a $32 fine for smokers and up to a $1,600 fine for businesses that allow it. After two months, the city has collected $16,000 in fines.
Beijing has actually attempted a smoking ban, but dropped it. And several other cities in China have had unsuccessful smoking bans. From the ForeignPolicy.com story:
The ban’s early success — one month after it began, the Beijing Association on Tobacco Control described the short-term results as “satisfactory” — is noteworthy. Environmental or health-friendly policies are often introduced to great fanfare in China, usually accompanied by amiable mantras like “Healthy City,” only to quietly fade due to lack of political will or commercial incentive.
When it comes to smoking, Chinese cities have mostlyproven willing to stub out only while international audiences are watching. What starts as erratic enforcement soon peters out, and the country light back up as soon as the world turns away. Take Guangzhou, the capital of southern Guangdong, whichexperimented with an ill-fated smoking crackdown in 2010, and has been doing so on-and-off, and without success, since 1995. Then there’s financial capital Shanghai, which made a similarly short-lived effortprior to its World Expo in 2010, themed “Better Life, Better City.” Beijing has also tried, with at least one half-hearted effort targeting large restaurants during the 2008 Olympics. That effectively ended when the foreign press went home.
The writer, based in Beijing, adds that he has personally witnessed a decrease in indoor smoking, including tobacco “fiends” standing outside a 24-hour club notorious for its “anything goes atmosphere.” The author stated that smoking was so ubiquitous in China as recently as 2009 — seeing smoking in hospital rooms, etc. — that he didn’t believe it would be possible for any smoking ban to have an effect.
Beijing may be taking steps to reduce smoking, but the city still struggles with its infamous horrendous smog. The smog may be one reason the capital has finally decided to become serious about a smoking ban, but at the same time, it is a small step in making Beijing a more healthy place.
From the article:
But what may prove more effective than the threat of a financial penalty is the growing realization that Beijing, already fending off notorious pollution, can no longer afford to carry the public-health burden of a citywide smoking habit as well.
… Smoking may eventually come to be viewed as an oddly indulgent habit in a city whose air is already persistently hostile to one’s health. Indeed, an unusual spate of recent thunderstorms, coupled with low winds, has left a spectral gloom over the city this summer, a reminder of greater problems yet to be resolved. In this clammy atmosphere, young commuters, lining up at bus stops, seem to cough, hawk, and grumble like terminal smokers. The capital may be ready to finally give up its favorite bad habit, but it has plenty of others still to kick.
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’ 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.”
The 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.