New Orleans Health Department Director Charlotte Parent formally added her support last week to a measure to prohibit smoking in bars, casinos and public spaces in New Orleans. The measure — from District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who told Gambit about her plan in July — has the support of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and several City Council members, and likely has enough votes to pass.
"We're moving forward as a city," Cantrell said on the steps of New Orleans City Hall, where she announced her intention to file the ordinance. Cantrell said her proposed ordinance "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 kicked off 2014's second Smoke-Free Week in New Orleans, featuring several events to encourage people to quit smoking.
Cantrell cited several musicians who support the measure, including John Boutte, Irvin Mayfield, Kermit Ruffins, Paul Sanchez and Trombone Shorty. Bonerama's Craig Klein, who said banning smoking in music venues is "incredibly dear" to New Orleans musicians, also supports the measure.
"To play in a club that is full of smoke, it's hard to play," Klein said. "It's a no-brainer in New Orleans. You can walk outside and have a drink with your cigarette. ... It's nothing personal with smokers. You want to smoke a cigarette, that's fine. It's personal if you want to smoke a cigarette in front of me while I'm playing my instrument."
Tania Moore with the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living said the measure protects people working in bars, clubs and casinos. Cynthia Hallett with the national nonsmoking group Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights said, "All workers deserve a safe, healthy, smoke-free workplace. We don't want to leave any worker behind."
"This is one way New Orleans is taking the lead and becoming not only a healthier city, but one that provides clinical research and health care services at all levels," Cantrell said. "We can't take the lead if we're allowing our people to stand by the wayside and die at rates that are four times the national average." Cantrell added that the ordinance would particularly help those in the tourism industry.
The ordinance itself was not presented at the news conference. It likely will be introduced at the Nov. 20 City Council meeting. It would then head to the council's Community Development Committee for its first public discussion. If the proposal earns committee approval, it will head to the full council for a vote, probably before the end of the year — but no target date for passage or enforcement has been set.