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EDITORIAL: Ban smoking in bars, clubs

Publication Date: 4/2/2011
  • Author:EDITORIAL
  • Publication:Lafayette (LA) Daily Advertiser

Grammy winner Chubby Carrier and fellow performers David Egan and Joey Richard talked with us recently about what is, for them and thousands of bartenders and barbacks, an occupational hazard — second-hand cigarette smoke.

It would be nice to think that the college student who tends bar for tuition or the single mom who waits on tables would merit the same concern as the performers we recognize and admire. It would be nice to think our state legislators would pay more attention to the health of their constituents and less attention to tobacco money, which seems to be more addictive even than nicotine.

But, things being what they are, the artists who have signed on to the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco Free Living's "Let's Clear the Air" campaign are vital to that effort.

Attempts to protect bar and casino employees from second-hand smoke in their workplaces have failed regularly since 2006, when the statewide smoking ban in most public buildings passed.

City ordinances, first in Alexandria and then in Lafayette, opened the door for legislative action back then. We hope the Durel administration and the Lafayette City-Parish Council will do their part again by banning smoking in clubs and bars.

The bar exception to the no-smoking law doesn't make sense when we weigh the impact on smokers, who are free to step outside, against the plight of bar employees, who are stuck in the smoke.

The employees are forced to breathe second-hand smoke, which statistics say kills 50,000 people a year in the United States, including 780 in Louisiana.

Egan, a blues performer and songwriter, had a portion of his lung surgically removed after being diagnosed with a form of lung cancer often associated with second-hand smoke.

"We feel like the time has come," Egan said recently. "It's inevitable. Are we going to be the last little hole in the wall where you can just blow smoke in everybody's face?"

Carrier spoke of talking to a woman who waits on tables at night for the extra money: "'Why you doing that?' 'Because I've got two little ones. But you wonder — am I doing the right thing or the wrong thing?'"

In other words, what if Mama gets sick?

Richard says he can often smell tobacco smoke on his guitar after a performance as he pulls it from its case to practice.

"It's ruining my equipment," Richard says.

And then he taps his chest.

"It's ruining this equipment."