Health & Wellness

Thursday, January 22, 2015

New Orleans City Council passes smoke-free ordinance banning smoking in bars and casinos

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 2:50 PM

click image The New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a citywide ban on smoking in bars and casinos. - MICHAEL OCAMPO/FLICKR
  • MICHAEL OCAMPO/FLICKR
  • The New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a citywide ban on smoking in bars and casinos.

In three months, most of New Orleans will be smoke (and vape) free. At today's New Orleans City Council meeting, its members unanimously passed an ordinance from councilmembers LaToya Cantrell and Susan Guidry that prohibits smoking and using electronic cigarettes in bars and casinos citywide.

"We have to change for the better to meet the needs of our people," Cantrell said.

Cantrell announced her intention to introduce a smoke-free ordinance in July 2014. It received the endorsements of Mayor Mitch Landrieu as well as health department director Charlotte Parent and several local and national health organizations. A first draft was introduced in November, and its final draft includes amendments from several other City Council members. In its final form, the smoking ordinance allows smoking only in the following places:

  • existing cigar and hookah bars
  • vape shops
  • outdoor areas (like patios and courtyards) at bars, restaurants and casinos
  • at smoking and vape conventions and Mardi Gras balls

Cigar bars are defined as a bar that has generated 10 percent or more of its annual gross income from cigar sales and humidor rentals. (It also excludes smoking cigarettes.)

Smoking will be prohibited in all bars and casinos and 5 feet from the entrances to businesses. Bourbon Street, however, was singled out in the ordinance. Smoking there from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue is allowed without any distance requirement on its street and sidewalks. The ordinance goes into effect 90 days after Landrieu signs it.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New Orleans smoking ban debate continues at City Hall

Posted By on Wed, Jan 14, 2015 at 9:35 PM

click image ED SCHIPUL/FLICKR
  • ED SCHIPUL/FLICKR

Before the New Orleans City Council votes on an ordinance that could ban smoking in bars and casinos citywide, the measure's authors held a "town hall"-style meeting to hear one last round of public comment. The City Council will likely hear from several speakers at the City Council meeting on Thursday, Jan. 22, but tonight's hearing made room for more than two hours of comments from all sides of the issue.

The audience was made up of smoke-free advocates, casino representatives and employees who fear for the worst if smoking is banned in their workplace, business owners who believe they should set their own smoking policies, and a crowd of electronic cigarette users and e-cig business owners who would support the ordinance if it didn't also target them.

It's the latter that could likely make some room for amendments on Jan. 22. At the council's Jan. 7 Community Development Committee meeting, e-cig users and sellers suggested that if cigar and hookah bars are exempt from the ordinance, so should their stores, where customers can "taste" vape products.

"We don't have a problem with the regulation of electronic cigarettes," said Anthony Kolesa, who runs Smoke Cignals, adding that many e-cig supporters would back the measure if it removed them from the picture.

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Friday, January 9, 2015

New Orleans City Council to host town hall meeting on smoking ban

Posted By on Fri, Jan 9, 2015 at 5:35 PM

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Following a contentious public hearing on District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell's proposed ban on smoking in bars and casinos, Cantrell and District A City Councilwoman Susan Guidry will host a town hall meeting on the ordinance at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 14.

The meeting in City Council chambers (at City Hall, 1300 Perdido St.) will "allow for the Council to gain additional input from those who were unable to attend the previous community hearing," Cantrell said in a statement.

"This meeting will provide an opportunity for continued public comment regarding the proposed smoke-free ordinance currently under consideration," Guidry added in a statement. "I join Councilmember Cantrell in welcoming concerned citizens from all perspectives on this issue to attend the Town Hall and make their voices heard."

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Smoking ban debate heats up in City Hall

Posted By on Wed, Jan 7, 2015 at 6:15 PM

New Orleans City Council chambers filled with supporters and opponents of an ordinance that could ban smoking in most public places, including bars and casinos. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • ALEX WOODWARD
  • New Orleans City Council chambers filled with supporters and opponents of an ordinance that could ban smoking in most public places, including bars and casinos.

New Orleans could be one step closer to banning smoking in most public places. A proposed ban — including prohibiting smoking in bars and casinos — had its first public debate today in New Orleans City Council chambers, where supporters and opponents packed the council's community development committee meeting. Following three hours of discussion, debate and heated argument, the committee approved a long list of changes to the original draft by a 3-2 vote.

District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell first announced plans to introduce the measure last summer, and in November, she unveiled a 25-page ordinance banning all tobacco products (including electronic cigarettes) from public areas and prohibiting smoking within 25 feet of a business. Today's amendments, however, exempt cigar bars and hookah lounges, allow smoking in approved bar patio areas, and change the 25-feet rule to 5 feet.

Supporters hail the ordinance as a much-needed public health measure that will prevent secondhand smoke and improve quality of life for employees (including musicians) in smoke-filled workplaces. Opponents, however, fear a disastrous economic impact that could hit employees — whether in small bars with a few bartenders or massive employment machines like Harrah's Casino — and trickle down to the local economy.

Swirling around the arguments for and against a smoking ban are a few key questions council members must now face: will smokers' economic impact prevail, and how does that weigh against nonsmokers' rights to a smoke-free environment? And will electronic cigarettes be determined safe enough to survive a ban?

Others, like smoker Elizabeth Stella, say the ordinance goes against the attitude New Orleans embraces.

"It’s not New York, it’s not Seattle, it’s a party town," she said. "A bar is not a health spa and alcohol is not a spa drink."

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Poll finds "overwhelming support" for smoking ban

Posted By on Tue, Jan 6, 2015 at 11:30 AM

Glen Bolger with Public Opinion Strategies presents results from an American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network poll finding New Orleanians' support of a smoking ban. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • ALEX WOODWARD
  • Glen Bolger with Public Opinion Strategies presents results from an American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network poll finding New Orleanians' support of a smoking ban.

Tomorrow, the New Orleans City Council holds its first public meeting on a measure that could extend a smoking ban to bars and casinos. District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell's ordinance, as written, also bans all tobacco products and their use within 25 feet of all businesses. Cantrell and supporters, including many public health organizations and city officials, including Mayor Mitch Landrieu and health department director Charlotte Parent, say that an extended smoking ban is a public health measure meant to protect to all employees regardless of their workplace.

Opponents fear not only losing business by forcing smokers on the sidewalk, but creating a logistical problem in especially business-dense areas like the French Quarter, where many businesses are within 25 feet of one another. (District C Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, whose district includes the French Quarter, already is trying to exempt cigar bars from the measure.)

But according to the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), most New Orleanians are in favor of extending the smoking ban. Eighty percent of registered voters polled last month agreed that "the rights of employees and customers to breathe clean air are more important than the rights of smokers and owners to allow smoking."

The American Cancer Society's advocacy group hired Public Opinion Strategies to conduct the poll, which surveyed 200 people Dec. 16-18. Among the findings, 56 percent of respondents "strongly favor" the proposed ordinance, while only 16 percent "strongly oppose." (Of those on the fence, 11 percent "somewhat favor" the ordinance and 16 percent "somewhat oppose.") The majority support also was spread among all five City Council districts.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ramsey moves to exempt some businesses from proposed smoking ordinance

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 5:40 PM

CREATIVE COMMONS/55LANEY69
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/55LANEY69

Next month, the New Orleans City Council will begin to dissect a new ordinance that could drastically limit where smoking is allowed in New Orleans. As written, District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell’s ordinance bans smoking (and using any tobacco products) from within 25 feet of businesses — including bars and other smoke-friendly businesses. Opponents of the ordinance say it could cause a logistical nightmare, particularly in the business-dense French Quarter, where many doorways are within 25 feet of the one next door.

District C City Councilmember Nadine Ramsey — whose district covers the Vieux Carre — already is moving to exempt some businesses in the Quarter from Cantrell’s measure, with mixed success.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

First draft of New Orleans smoking ordinance bans all tobacco products from public areas

Posted By on Thu, Nov 20, 2014 at 12:20 PM

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New Orleans District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell caps off 2014's second Smoke-Free Week with the first look at a citywide smoking ordinance that aims to significantly limit where smoking is allowed, in the name of public and workplace health and safety.

The measure, which amends the city's already-existing smoking ordinances under its Smoke-Free Air Act, prohibits not only cigarettes but all tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices, hookahs and "natural or synthetic marijuana" and "other plant products" in bars, casinos, private clubs, correctional facilities and other "public" areas, including workplaces and school campuses, colleges and specialty schools. District A City Councilwoman Susan Guidry co-sponsored the measure.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

LaToya Cantrell to introduce smoke-free legislation Nov. 20

Posted By on Wed, Nov 12, 2014 at 1:00 PM

District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell plans to pass legislation banning smoking in bars, casinos and public spaces. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • ALEX WOODWARD
  • District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell plans to pass legislation banning smoking in bars, casinos and public spaces.

New Orleans Health Department director Charlotte Parent added her support to a measure to prohibit smoking in bars, casinos and public spaces in New Orleans. The measure — from New Orleans District B councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who told Gambit about her plan in July and has the support of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and several City Council members — will be introduced in the City Council on first reading Nov. 20. It will then likely head to the council's Community Development Committee, where it will have its first public discussion. Following approval at that committee, it will head to the full council for a vote, likely before the end of the year.

"We're moving forward as a city," Cantrell said on the steps of New Orleans City Hall this morning. "(This legislation) is is not about attacking someone who wishes to smoke. This is about protecting our workforce, protecting our residents, who wish to live in smoke-free environments, and to make sure the disparities that exist in our city are eliminated."

The announcement kicks off 2014's second Smoke-Free Week, featuring several events to encourage people to quit smoking.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

New Orleans musicians and environmental groups host Ebola prevention benefit

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 12:30 PM

A benefit at Hi-Ho Lounge raises funds for a Liberian organization that delivers sanitation supplies, like hand-washing stations, and food to communities impacted by ebola. - PHOTO COURTESY LBB
  • PHOTO COURTESY LBB
  • A benefit at Hi-Ho Lounge raises funds for a Liberian organization that delivers sanitation supplies, like hand-washing stations, and food to communities impacted by ebola.

New Orleans musicians headline a benefit Wednesday (Nov. 5) to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus and help address the health crisis impacting thousands of people in Africa. United Against Ebola — organized by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Africa Brass — will benefit the Natural Resources Research Initiative's (NRRI) Action Prevents Ebola campaign, which helps deliver health information, distribute sanitation supplies and food, and educate impacted communities.

Liberian environmental activist Abel Williams Cheayan is president of NRRI. This summer, the 25 year old worked with the Bucket Brigade as part of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Proceeds from the event will help pay for chloride bottles, hand-washing buckets and bags of rice to distribute among five Liberian communities and 100,000 people.

The event at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Hi-Ho Lounge (2239 St. Claude Ave.) features performances from Africa NOLA, Africa Brass, Mario Abney & the Abney Effect, BateBunda and others, with dance performances from Torrence Taylor, Lady Voodoo and Abeo. There also is a local art silent auction. Organizers ask people to wear red, white and blue. Admission is a suggested donation of $5-$20.

According to the World Health Organization as of Oct. 22, there have been nearly 10,000 cases of the disease with more than 4,000 deaths.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

New UNO poll: Landrieu favored in primary; Cassidy favored in potential runoff

Posted By on Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 11:52 AM

Dr. Ed Chernevak, director of the UNO Survey Research Center. - COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF NEW ORLEANS
  • COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF NEW ORLEANS
  • Dr. Ed Chernevak, director of the UNO Survey Research Center.


On the eve of next Tuesday's election, the University of New Orleans (UNO) Survey Research Center (SRC) released a poll surveying Louisiana registered voters on three topics: the state of the state, health care policy and the Senate race. The biggest takeaway: Likely voters prefer Sen. Mary Landrieu in the primary, but if the Senate race should go to a runoff, Rep. Bill Cassidy is favored among those same voters.

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