Group ignites support to make East Baton Rouge smoke free

Group ignites support to make East Baton Rouge smoke free
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - One year after city leaders in New Orleans decided the city would go completely smoke free, a group in Baton Rouge is launching a new effort to make all work environments in the Capital City smoke free as well.

"Basically what we have right now is an unjust policy gap. We these approximately 3,000 employees in East Baton Rouge Parish that don't have the protections we have," said Lydia Kuykendal with the American Cancer Society.

Under the state's current smoking ban guidelines, bars and casinos are exempt. The group Smoke Free East Baton Rouge believes that gap leaves the people who work and play in those venues dangerously vulnerable.

The negative health impacts of smoking and secondhand smoke are well documented. Cancer and heart disease top the list.

"This is a personal thing to me because I lost a drummer of 25 years, last year, to COPD," said musician Henry Turner.

With talks of a smoking ban, concerns over the financial impact and the rights of business owners always follow.

However, several Baton Rouge bars, like The Bulldog, have already gone smoke free voluntarily. Remi DeMatteo, general manager at The Bulldog, said business is better and employees are happier since making the move nine months ago.

"We've seen a definite uptick in business. It's all been positive. We're really, really happy that we went non-smoking," said DeMatteo.

There also seems to be strong support for the extended among residents. An independent survey of 500 Baton Rouge voters revealed 70 percent were behind extending the ban.

The ultimate decision lies with the EBR Metro Council, and several members have already said they'd support a new ordinance.

Smoke Free East Baton Rouge said they hope a new ordinance will be presented to the Metro Council within a few months.

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