Ordinance could ban smoking in EBR bars and casinos

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - More than a year after city leaders shot down a proposal that would ban smoking in bars and casinos in Baton Rouge, the issue is up for debate again.

Ban supporter and Councilwoman Chauna Banks believes this time they have the votes.

"We have a responsibility as a city-parish government to ensure that all our citizens have an opportunity to have a good time but also in a safe, smoke-free environment," said Councilwoman Banks.

Back in 2007, the Louisiana legislature banned smoking in public places around the state, but the ban did not include bars and casinos. Smoke-Free EBR spokesperson Raegan Carter said roughly 3,000 bar and casino workers are exposed to second-hand smoke.

"We know that second-hand smoke is related to lung cancer and other health disparities among bar and casino workers," explained Carter.

"The ordinance will add East Baton Rouge Parish to a growing list of communities that have already passed similar smoke-free laws. In our own state, cities such as Monroe, Alexandria, New Orleans and most recently Lafayette have joined the ranks of smoke-free communities," Smoke-Free EBR said.

"Cigarette smoking is a secondary enjoyment. We believe that if these venues are promoted correctly, you can still gamble whether you smoke or not. There shouldn't be any difference. Actually, we think there will be an increase in patronage," said Banks.

However, the Louisiana Casino Association feels differently. In a statement, the LCA said:

"The Louisiana Casino Association retains the same concerns as last year when this issue was raised.  Smoking bans in New Orleans and other cities have always reduced the number of visitors to casinos resulting in the need for fewer employees and gaming tax losses to those cities.  We note that gaming is an adult-only activity. We believe that both our customers and staff are well informed and that as adults they can decide for themselves the venues they wish to enter. Lastly, only the gaming floor is a smoking area.  As a result, our restaurants, administrative and support areas, common spaces and lobbies are already non-smoking."

Smoke-Free EBR said with 70% of the parish backing the change, they hope the overwhelming support of the public keeps their clean air initiative going.

"We're not asking people to not smoke, we're asking people to step outside," said Carter.

The ordinance is expected to be introduced at the June 14th  Metro Council meeting.

A public hearing will be held June 28th.

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