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Friday, January 30, 2015

New Orleans bars and casinos will go nonsmoking this April

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 1:30 PM

click to enlarge Mayor Mitch Landrieu signs a citywide smoke-free ordinance Jan. 30. Landrieu was joined by Dr. John Ochsner, members of New Orleans City Council, musician Deacon John Moore and members of a smoke-free campaign that backed the legislation. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • ALEX WOODWARD
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu signs a citywide smoke-free ordinance Jan. 30. Landrieu was joined by Dr. John Ochsner, members of New Orleans City Council, musician Deacon John Moore and members of a smoke-free campaign that backed the legislation.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu signaled his support for a measure that would ban smoking in bars and casinos and other public areas last year. In 2002, while serving in the Louisiana legislature, Landrieu also helped create the Louisiana Cancer Consortium, which created a partnership with the LSU Health Sciences Center, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, Xavier University and Ochsner Health System — as well as the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living. That campaign also helped draft and promote the smoke-free ordinance from District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell. That ordinance passed the New Orleans City Council earlier this month. Today, Landrieu ratified the measure. It goes into effect the first week of Jazz Fest in April.

"I'm really proud to sign this ordinance today," Landrieu said. "We tried to achieve the appropriate balance between public health, economic development and public security. We hope we've achieved that balance. ... We'll continue to make sure it operates as it was designed."

The ordinance prohibits smoking and vaping inside all bars as well as the Harrah's Casino and the New Orleans Fair Grounds gaming areas. (Smoking is still allowed outside and in patio areas, and the ordinance grandfathers in existing cigar and hookah bars. Vape shops also will allow vaping in-store.)

Last week, Landrieu's press secretary Brad Howard said the mayor's legal team and enforcement agencies performed a "careful review" of the long list of amendments after the measure passed the City Council Jan. 22. Health department director Charlotte Parent, whose department is among the enforcement agencies responsible for handling the new smoke-free laws, said the department is looking at how other states have enforced similar bans, and finding the best fits for enforcement in New Orleans. The campaigns behind the ordinance will largely transfer to the city, which will lead public awareness campaigns and begin talking to businesses about signage and how the ordinance will work.

"We don't believe we have to recreate the wheel," Parent said. "We'll spend some intense time over the next few weeks understanding how we want to roll this out, then hitting the ground getting the information out [to businesses] on how they need to work with us to make this happen."

Cantrell said that campaign also will help bar owners learn to create smoke-free environments and aims to create partnerships and mentorships between bars that have already gone smoke-free with other bar owners. As for handling potential noise on streets and sidewalks when smokers step outside to smoke, Cantrell said reviving the noise ordinance is on her agenda. As Jeff Adelson reported in The New Orleans Advocate, the city already has hired a consultant to replace David Woolworth, who drafted recommendations to the last City Council.

"I'm going to have to deal with that, too," Cantrell said. "I'm going to have to pick up the sound ordinance, that's something I agreed to do."

Cantrell says as she begins to readdress the noise ordinance — which fizzled out of the City Council when a draft failed last April — she wants to work with that draft and its amendments rather than start from scratch.

"I want to hit it and quit it — none of this drawn-out process. Let's be fair with it and reasonable and practical," she said. "But we have to get it done. It just keeps coming up. When we talk about [the upcoming draft of the city's Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance] and the smoking ordinance, it's something we have to address. We are going to be practical about it."

Cantrell said she'll also look to address affordable housing and short-term rentals with the current city council.

Meanwhile, other cities and states are looking at the successful passage of smoke-free laws in New Orleans as they consider similar bans. Lafayette's City Council (also working with the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living) will likely consider similar legislation.

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