Wednesday, April 22, 2015

New Orleans officials celebrate the end of smoking in bars and casinos

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 12:00 PM

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"Inhale, Exhale, Repeat Safely" — that slogan now hangs above Poydras Street across from the Superdome as the New Orleans smoke- and vape-free ordinance goes into effect today. It'll remain there for 30 days. Under direction of a new citywide smoke-free ordinance, New Orleans bars and Harrah's Casino turned on the "no smoking" signs at midnight last night. City leaders, health advocates and health care officials celebrated the bar's effective date — April 22, 2015 — on the top level of the Superdome's parking garage directly across from the signage.

District B councilmember LaToya Cantrell, who authored the legislation, thanked city officials for getting on board, and she also thanked the bars and Harrah's for "taking bold steps in making smoke-free environments." (Harrah's installed new signage advertising itself as the "best smoke-free casino" and handed out lollipops to gamblers at the stroke of midnight.)

But Harrah's also is leading a lawsuit against the city after it and dozens of French Quarter bars and businesses sought (and failed to get) a restraining order to prevent the law's implementation. That suit heads to Civil District Court next month. Until then, there will be at least a month of smoke-free bars and casinos.

"We [will] continue to patronize our bars and businesses — show them love, because that's what this is all about," Cantrell said.

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District A councilmember and ordinance co-sponsor Susan Guidry, who attempted a similar ban in 2010 but did not have that council's support, said "the battle is not over."

"That battle has now moved to Baton Rouge," she said. "We have the tobacco industry, with the casino's face and the gaming face, they're up in Baton Rouge whispering in the ears of legislators saying, 'What the City Council did was lose the state money.' ... We will not lose money. We will become a healthier New Orleans and in doing so become a more lucrative New Orleans," adding that the smoke-free laws will offset the cost of health care and attract convention business that otherwise would not visit New Orleans.

Charlotte Parent, the city's health department director, said implementation of signage and public education of the new law has "gone smoothly."

"By eliminating smoking in businesses across the city, we're not only protecting the wellbeing of our patrons, we're providing a healthier work environment for employees who serve those patrons every day," she said.

And other Louisiana cities are taking note. Hammond's city council voted in favor of a smoke-free ordinance yesterday, and Baton Rouge and Lafayette are beginning to eye similar legislation.

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