Extended smoke ban fails before EBR Metro Council with 6-6 vote

Extended smoke ban fails before EBR Metro Council with 6-6 vote

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge Metro Council failed to pass a new smoking ordinance that would have banned smoking in all city-parish bars, casinos and restaurants.

The current ordinance on the books in the parish prohibits smoking in public places and around public buildings, but the new ordinance would have specifically added bars, restaurants and casinos to those facilities. The council failed to pass an amended version of the original ordinance with a vote of 6-6.

Supporters of the proposed ordinance, like the group Smoke Free East Baton Rouge, said it offered a holistic approach to creating smoke-free environments and protects employees who are often subjected to second-hand smoke.

"70 percent of the residents wanted it and six council members decided to ignore what their constituents asked for, let alone ignore science and health in favor of fear," said Lydia Kuykendal with the American Cancer Society after the vote.

Opponents of the ordinance said turning traditional smoke environments, like casinos and bars, into smoke-free environments will hurt revenue.

Based on data from other cities with smoke bans in place, some casino executives projected revenue would d rop by up to 20 percent. Many opponents argued that d rop in revenue would trickle down, hurting the local economy.

"We think that guests will choose on their own what businesses to patronize. But, we firmly believe that's a decision that should be left up to the guests, as well as business owners," said Troy Stremming, Executive Vice-president of Government Relations and public affairs for Pinnacle Entertainment, the parent company of L'Auberge Casino.

Public comment on the subject lasted well over two hours. Testimony from supporters included doctors, politicians, musicians and bar owners. Opponents included current casino workers, industry executives and a representative from the Libertarian Party.

Council members who voted against the measure were Chandler Loupe, Ryan Heck, Scott Wilson, Trae Welch, Buddy Amoroso and John Delgado; while Council members Tara Wicker, Donna Collins-Lewis, Erika Green, Chauna Banks-Daniel, LaMont Cole and Joel Boé voted in favor.

Advocates say the fight is not over yet.

"We keep fighting," said Kuykendal.

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