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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Smoking ban kicks in at midnight: What you need to know

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 2:46 PM

click to enlarge Get used to seeing this sign around New Orleans as the new smoking ordinance goes into effect. - CITY OF NEW ORLEANS
  • CITY OF NEW ORLEANS
  • Get used to seeing this sign around New Orleans as the new smoking ordinance goes into effect.

After months of sometimes (OK, usually) heated discussion about the new ordinance banning smoking (and vaping) in nearly every bar in New Orleans, the law is set to take effect at midnight tonight, and the city has launched a web page to explain it all.

The group Smoke Free NOLA will celebrate and take a victory lap with a free "Smokefree Kickoff" free music show tomorrow night (April 23) at Le Bon Temps Roule with Paul Sanchez, Deacon John and other musicians.

Here's what you need to know before tomorrow:

No smoking or vaping in bars or casinos. Period. Yes, that includes Harrah's New Orleans and the New Orleans Fair Grounds. No, they're not happy about it. 

• Unless it's a properly permitted "cigar bar" or "hookah bar." But you can't smoke cigarettes or vape in there, either, because ... uh... because.

• You can smoke in convention facilities during Mardi Gras balls. Why? Because Mardi Gras.

• You can smoke on a patio or in a courtyard if the bar permits it.

• Harrah's and a coalition of French Quarter bars filed a lawsuit last week attempting to get a restraining order that would have put a halt to the ordinance. Their petition was denied, but the case is set to be heard in Civil District Court May 21. 

• The law will be enforced by the New Orleans Health Department, not the New Orleans Police Department. 

• Businesses will be fined $100 for a first offense; it goes up from there. Smokers will be fined $50 for a first offense. However, according to the city's website:

The Health Department will notify businesses of complaints after they are received. However, penalties will not be levied until the City proposes an implementation plan of specific rules and regulations to the City Council and the Council has reviewed and adopted a final plan – a process the City expects to complete this summer.

• If you see someone smoking and want to make a complaint, call 311. This is how it's supposed to work, according to the city:

• Starting April 22, 2015, noncompliance may be reported to the Health Department by
completing a Smoke-Free Ordinance Complaint Form. Individuals will be able to obtain the
form by visiting nola.gov/smokefree or by calling 311 (or the toll free number for 311:
(877) 286-6431). 311 operators will be available to receive calls Monday–Friday, 8am–5pm,
and complainants will have the option to leave a message at night and on weekends.

• The Health Department will follow-up with individuals who make complaints and
businesses that receive complaints during business hours. Within 5 business days of
receiving a complaint form, the Health Department will notify the person who made the
complaint and the business where the violation occurred that a complaint has been
received. If the Health Department receives a second complaint form about a business,
Health Department staff will conduct a site visit to investigate, provide educational
materials, and encourage compliance.

• Individuals may also submit anonymous complaints by visiting nola.gov/smokefree or by
calling 311 or (877) 286-6431.

• The city has a new website that breaks down all these rules, and offers free signage and a "toolkit" for business owners who want it. 

More info:

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

New Orleans bar owners prepare for the April 22 smoking ban and what it will mean for business 

Harrah's and French Quarter bars sue the City of New Orleans in smoking ban dispute

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