New Orleans City Council District B councilwoman LaToya Cantrell announced a citywide nonsmoking campaign dubbed Smoke-Free Week (July 21-25) in coordination with the statewide Healthier Air for All Campaign under the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL). TFL has led the charge in Baton Rouge to push for statewide bans on smoking in bars, though that legislation has failed. But several cities and parishes have recently adopted their own legislation to prohibit smoking in barrooms. Mirroring recent laws in Alexandria, Monroe, West Monroe and all of Ouachita Parish, this fall Cantrell plans to introduce legislation to make New Orleans bars and public buildings smoke-free.
More than 100 bars in New Orleans are smoke-free, according to Healthier Air for All, and the number is climbing. Winston's Pub & Patio joined the smoke-free list this year, and The Maple Leaf — which has hosted weekly smoke-free nights on Wednesdays and at special events — will also go smoke-free this fall.
Cantrell says she has reached out to bars citywide to gauge interest in going smoke-free. "We’re seeing trends throughout the city that are driven by bar owners themselves," she told Gambit. "Bars across the city are recognizing the trend (and) the immediate need for New Orleans to be a healthier city. ... They are showing other bar owners that this can be done, to no negative impact to the business, and they're not losing patrons but gaining them."
Smoke-Free Week — which will raise awareness of the health effects of smoking and second-hand smoke — begins with a kickoff party with the 610 Stompers at The Rusty Nail (1100 Constance St.) from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, July 21, and there will be a town hall-style discussion about smoke-free laws at Carrollton Station (8140 Willow St.) from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 23. The week culminates with a party at The Maple Leaf (8316 Oak St.) at 8 p.m. Friday, July 25.
"Smoke-free Week is the beginning of the movement to make New Orleans healthier," Cantrell said. "Every bar owner I’ve talked to that’s not smoke free has said, 'You know what, we’re for it.' From Rock Bottom Lounge on Tchoupitoulas to Silkie’s in Milan, I've been in the barrooms. ... We're not trying to hit them off guard but share with them what the focus is."
Cantrell says she anticipates majority City Council support, and she's prepared to stand up against the tobacco industry and other opponents to smoke-free measures. "I’m ready for it," she said. "It’s the right thing to do."