Protect Local Control

Ensuring Community Rights
To Pass Smokefree Ordinances

News Summary

No-smoking advocates pushing for ban to include Louisiana's bars and casinos

Publication Date: 2011-03-18
  • Author:Bret H. McCormick
  • Publication:Alexandria Town Talk

Employees and residents across the state received greater protection from second-hand smoke in 2007 after the passage of Louisiana's Smoke-Free Air Act.

However, the act left a segment of the population exposed to the health risks associated with second-hand smoke.

The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living has made it a mission to protect that population with its "Let's Clear the Air" awareness campaign in the hope of banning smoking in bars and casinos.

The organization held a news conference at Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in Alexandria on Thursday to release results of a recent study of air quality in local smoking and nonsmoking bars.

Dr. Daniel J. Harrington with the LSU Health Sciences Center's School of Public Health said a survey of 10 Alexandria smoking bars and seven nonsmoking bars in Lafayette and Alexandria showed that smoking bars had a hazardous air-quality level, as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that was 20 times higher than non-smoking bars.

"Why is it OK for employees in these establishments to continue to be exposed to this?" asked Herrington.

Dr. Gary Jones, a Cabrini Hospital cardiovascular surgeon, said medical professionals have known for years the dangers caused by smoking.

"There's no question about it," he said. "It will be harmful to your health."

Eliminating smoking, Jones said, would go a long way toward eliminating a number of diseases such as lung and oral cancer, heart disease and pancreatic disease.

"This is absolutely necessary to implement no cigarette smoking in any public places," Jones said.

Two local bar owners -- Kechiee Thompson with the Corner Office club on Third Street in downtown Alexandria and Levi Kimble with the smoke-free Lady's Choice club on South MacArthur Drive -- also spoke in support of a smoking ban in bars and casinos.

"We believe in a smoke-free bar in the city of Alexandria," Kimble said. "It has been great for our business, great for our employees and great for the city of Alexandria."

Carlette Christmas, a local syndicated radio host who served as the news conference's facilitator, challenged city officials to extend the city's smoking ordinance to make Alexandria "100 percent smoke free."

"I ask myself, 'Is it fair that I'm protected and they're not? And why should they be left out?'" Christmas said. "... Let's be the city that values the contributions of every community member, no matter where they work."

City Council President Roosevelt Johnson said the city has been progressive on the smoking-ban front. The City Council voted in February 2006 to beef up the city's smoking ordinances, exempting only private homes, cars, bars and restaurants holding a liquor license.

The Louisiana Legislature later barred smoking at all restaurants, but left casinos and bars unprotected.

Johnson said city officials could decide to ban smoking in all buildings in the city.

"We're going to take a look at it and see what we need to do to keep our city healthy," he said.