A controversial ban on smoking in bars and casinos threaded across New Orleans is headed towards the New Orleans City Council on Thursday for a possible vote. Prior to the showdown, the debate hailed two lengthy public hearings with more than five hours of opinions, ranging from angry shouts to persuasive pleads from residents, the Greater New Orleans reports.
Introduced by council member LaToya Cantrell, she has billed it as a safeguard for workers suffering through second-hand smoke to make a living. The ban vouches for no smoking in bars, restaurants, all hotel and motel rooms, Harrah’s casino, outdoor arenas and stadiums, parks, private clubs, bingo parlors, and more.
The proposed ordinance is backed by many of the city’s most prominent artists, including Deacon John Moore, a well-known rhythm and blues band leader and musicians’ union president, and trumpeter Kermit Ruffins.
Meanwhile, those against the ruling are late-night entertainment businesses, bar owners and the casino industry. Most worry that a ban on smoking will hurt business and have a detrimental economic impact in the area.
While smoking at indoor restaurants in NOLA is no longer permitted, it is still one of the last major American cities to allow people to smoke tobacco in bars. The other cities are Philadelphia; Atlanta; Miami; Las Vegas; Fort Worth and Arlington, Texas; Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee; Jacksonville, Florida; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Jason Williams, a city council member at-large, announced he plans to remove the New Orleans Police Department as an enforcement agency for the ban, which will leave implementing it to the city’s health, parks, recreation, code enforcement and permitting departments.
Since its initial and much more rigid proposal in 2014, the ordinance has since been winded down, now allowing smoking in public parks and within five feet of a bar. However, an exception to the rule might be in the works for smokers on Bourbon Street, who could be able to smoke closer than five feet to an entrance, though smoking inside any public institution will still be prohibited.
As of now, though, the bill is still subject to change.