Today’s the day for the New Orleans City Council to hold its first vote on a proposed smoking ban that would effectively ban smoking in all public places in The Big Easy, as the proposal is on the agenda for the 10 a.m. meeting.
Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell’s proposal, which was presented on Nov. 20, spells out 22 distinct areas where smoking would be banned, including bars, restaurants, casinos, parks, racetracks and more. It would also push smokers at least 25 feet away from the entrances or windows to those places. Violators would be subject to a first-time fine of $100 that can escalate to $500 for repeat offenses.
The vote will be of high interest to the premium cigar industry, as the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) will be holding its annual convention and trade show in the city from July 17 – 21. Should it pass and go into effect prior to the start of the trade show, it figures to put a serious crimp in the plans of numerous cigar companies.
While the IPCPR Convention & Trade Show would certainly be inconvenienced by the ban, Cantrell says she has received letters from 27 trade groups who say that they won’t return to the city until there’s a smoking ban in place, something that should certainly factor into the discussions.
The ordinance does provide exemptions for retail tobacco stores as well as all places of employment of tobacco manufacturers, importers, wholesalers and distributors, along with tobacco leaf dealers and processors and all tobacco storage facilities. Up to 50% of the rooms in a hotel or motel can be designated as smoking rooms, while private homes, private residences, and private vehicles, along with private and semiprivate rooms or apartments in assisted living residences, provided the residents of that room all agree to have it be a smoking room and the smoke doesn’t cross into other areas.
There is also an exemption for the outdoor seating areas and serving area of bars and restaurants.
Beyond the ban on smoking, the ordinance also contains provisions that would require new tobacco retailers to be at least 300 feet from schools, churches, parks, public libraries, schools, or any child care of similar facility. It also prohibits the establishment of new tobacco retailer in areas of the city designated as residential or parks and recreation districts.
There promises to be a good bit of discussion about the ban that could lead to some revisions. Councilman Jason Williams has already said he would like to amend the proposal so that the New Orleans police department wouldn’t be responsible for its enforcement. Currently, the ordinance provides enforcement power to several agencies: the departments of Health, Safety and Permits, Code Enforcement and Parks and Parkways, along with the Recreation Development Commission, the Fire Department and the police department
As far as council members sharing their leanings prior to the vote, Williams told WDSU-TV that he wouldn’t support it in its current form unless his amendment to remove police enforcement was adopted. Councilwoman Susan Guidry expressed her support of it when it was introduced and signed on as a co-sponsor.
New Orleans is the largest city in Louisiana, with a 2013 population estimate of 378,715 residents.