New Orleans Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell has made no secret of her desire to see The Big Easy implement a smoking ban; in late July she announced plans to begin a tour of bars and lounges that have gone smoke-free voluntarily in hopes of drumming up support to make all of them pull their ashtrays.
In mid-August, she announced plans to have a smoking ban proposal presented to the council by November, and yesterday she delivered. Cantrell told NOLA.com that the proposal will likely head to the council’s Community Development Committee in December, with plans in the works to hold a number of public hearings so that residents, businesses and other interested parties can voice their opinions.
Cantrell called the plan ambitious as it effectively bans smoking in all public places, with 22 distinct areas defined in the proposal, 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.
According to a breakdown of the proposal by BestOfNewOrleans.com, smoking would still be allowed in tobacco businesses, though new businesses wouldn’t be allowed to open within 300 feet of parks, churches, libraries, schools, childcare facilities and similar places for young people. Existing businesses within those boundaries would be grandfathered.
The full text of the ordinance can be found here.
The debate promises to be an interesting one, as the Freedom to Choose Coalition has already voiced its opinions, with its members including the Louisiana Restaurant Association, the French Quarter Business League, the Louisiana Amusement and Music Operators Association, the Louisiana Video Gaming Association, the Louisiana Association of Wholesalers and Harrah’s Casino, according to the report.
On the council side, Councilwoman Susan Guidry has expressed her support for a ban, saying the council could be ready to make such a bold move. Cantrell has said that she has support from a majority of the other members.
Cantrell’s hope is to have the ordinance approved no later than March 1, 2015, which could put a dent in plans for the cigar industry, as the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers’ Association has already announced that its 2015 convention and trade show will be held in New Orleans from July 17-21. The organization last gathered there in 2009 and 2010, and has begun looking for sites for the 2016 gathering and beyond, with a fairly short list of candidates that includes New Orleans as well as Las Vegas, which has hosted the gathering in 2011, 2013 and 2014. Orlando, Fla. hosted the event in 2012.
While that is certainly a concern for the cigar industry, Cantrell’s staff told the council that they have been told by 27 different groups, including the American Heart Association, that they won’t return to New Orleans until changes are made to the city’s relaxed attitude towards smoking.
New Orleans is the largest city in Louisiana, with a 2013 population estimate of 378,715 residents.