Smoke-free bill squeezes through committee

by Heather Miller

The bill marks at least the third time that this type of legislation has made it out of committee, but it has always died later in the legislative process.

A move toward smoke-free bars and casinos halfway moved through a Senate committee this week. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted 4-3 to snuff out butts in bars, but removed the ban in casinos from the bill.

According to a report from The Times-Picayune's website, this legislation marks the third time that a smoking bill has made it out of committee. The bill has always died later in the legislative process.

State Sen. Rob Marionneaux Jr., D-Livonia, tells The T-P, "We'll take what we can get:"

At least 27 states have enacted similar bans, [Marionneaux] said.

Opponents, said a ban would spell economic harm for bars and gambling establishments, curtail personal freedom and reduce state tax revenues.

Voting for the ban were Sens. Butch Gautreaux, D-Morgan City, Joe McPherson, D-Woodworth, Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, and Cynthia Willard-Lewis, D-New Orleans. Voting against it were Sens. David Heitmeier, D-Algiers, Sherri Cheek, R-Shreveport, and Fred Mills Jr., R-St. Martinville.

Although the fate of the statewide ban remains unknown,  the 2007 Louisiana Smoke-Free Air Act allows municipalities and local governments to enact their own bans on smoking in bars and casinos, the last two public places where smokers can light up inside.

Local musicians David Egan and Chubby Carrier, along with Acadiana Sports League owner Zachary Barker, have joined Louisiana Tobacco Free Living in its Let's Be Totally Clear campaign to end smoking in bars and casinos. They have advocated for Lafayette to be the first city in the state to enact a local ban.

Since their push toward a local ban started, however, the movement has yet to gain any tangible traction among local officials.

Read more on the issue here.
For more on smoking legislation in Louisiana, read The Ind's March 16 cover story, "Smoke Signals."