Proposed city smoking ban would bring long-overdue public health benefits

Thomas O'Brien, Managing Editor

The following is an opinion article, and opinion articles do not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo

A proposed city ordinance that would ban smoking in bars, casinos and other public places is a long-overdue step to improving public health in New Orleans.

A City Council committee voted Jan. 7 to move forward and recommend Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell’s proposed smoking ban to the full City Council.

The proposed ordinance would bring New Orleans in line with many other states and cities across the country that ban smoking in bars. As of 2013, 30 states, including North Carolina and Ohio, and many cities in other states ban smoking in both restaurants and bars. A Louisiana state law bans smoking in restaurants, but workers and customers in New Orleans bars and casinos are left unprotected. The many hospitality workers in New Orleans deserve a workplace free from life-threatening toxins.

The negative health impacts of second-hand smoke are well-documented. If enacted, the ban will create healthier and more enjoyable environments for both workers and customers in the city’s bars and casinos. It will especially benefit New Orleans musicians, for whom healthy lungs are necessary for both their financial and medical well-being. 

Opponents of the proposed ban argue that New Orleans is a party town with a laissez-faire culture that should allow smoking. Opponents of France’s smoking ban also used this argument before France’s ban took place in 2008. If a country with a smoking culture as widespread as France’s can ban smoking in its bars and cafes, New Orleans can surely do the same.

Opponents also argue that a ban would hurt business in the city’s establishments. Evidence from many other smoking bans in the country, however, suggests otherwise. A 2013 study of 8 states without a state-wide smoking ban, including Alabama and South Carolina, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that local smoking bans had no negative economic impact.

If anything, the lack of a smoking ban in New Orleans may actually decrease economic activity in the city. Members of Cantrell’s staff told NOLA.com that 27 organizations, including the American Heart Association, have said they will not return their conventions to the city without more restrictions on smoking in public places.

The current proposal is not perfect. It needlessly prohibits smoking in outdoor public spaces such as parks during city events, for example. Cantrell, however, has shown a willingness to compromise on certain provisions. With public input, a stronger version of the ban that protects the health of residents and visitors without presenting needless restrictions can emerge.

Thomas O’Brien is a senior at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected]