New Orleans Update…
Should New Orleans become the model city for anti-smoking extremism?
November 24, 2014
By Owen Courreges
Aldous Huxley once wrote that “a fanatic is a man who consciously over compensates a secret doubt.” This helps explain the bizarrely-detailed 25 page anti-smoking ordinance proposed this past Thursday by Councilwomen Latoya Cantrell and Susan Guidry.
Even I didn’t predict the staggering scope of the ordinance. Instead of being content to simply ban most indoor smoking, already a contentious proposal, the bill seeks to ban most outdoor smoking as well and treats electronic cigarettes, which produce no smoke, the same way as traditional cigarettes. It contains no exceptions for hookah lounges or cigar bars.
The preamble to the ordinance, the portion consisting of a litany of “whereas” paragraphs, runs over 7 pages long. It is here where one sees just how little thought and effort actually went into drafting this monstrosity.
Much of the text appears cut-and-pasted from various sources, particularly model legislation from anti-tobacco groups. This results in at least one embarrassing oversight: the proposed ordinance argues that “employers have a common law duty to provide their workers with a workplace that is not unreasonably dangerous.”
That’s true, but the problem should be apparent if you’re among those qualified to draft legislation. You know, one of those people who recognizes that Louisiana is not a common law state.
Still, the most disturbing aspect of the proposed law is not its poor draftsmanship, but its overreach. First of all, it contains a very extensive ban on smoking outside. Smoking is banned within 25 feet of any window or door of any regulated establishment, within 25 feet of any publicly-owned property (including parks), within 25 feet of any bus or streetcar stop, etc., etc.
The end result is that in the denser areas of the city, such as the French Quarter, you’re pretty much never running on the right side of the law if you light up outside.
The justification for this restriction is that “there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” a trope repeated by various government health organizations and anti-tobacco groups. While this may be true, it also misses the point. Countless common things we are exposed to in the world pose some “risk” regardless of the level of exposure, but those risks are typically vanishingly small.
Furthermore, studies have shown that simply moving about 3-6 feet away from a smoker reduces outdoor exposure to secondhand smoke to near background levels. If you aren’t practically invading a smoker’s personal space, there’s scarcely any risk at all.
When the risks imposed on third-parties are minimal, the need for prohibitive legislation is less than obvious. Viewing citizens as fragile flowers that cannot take even the most fleeting, slight exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke is ridiculous. There’s no reason to believe that outdoor smoking poses a significant health risk to others and it’s not worth the city’s time to enforce.
Since the outdoor prohibitions are so expansive as to defy common sense, it’s understandable that the law contains page after page of jaundiced argument. Were I an anti-smoking fanatic, I’d need several pages of self-serving agit-prop to assuage my secret doubts as well.
Where the proposed ordinance really goes off the rails, though, is by treating electronic cigarettes the same way as traditional (let’s say “analog”) cigarettes. The ordinance inexplicably deems the use of these devices to be “smoking” even though they produce vapor, not smoke.
The justification for attacking electronic cigarettes, a.k.a. “e-cigs,” is that they pose a “potential” health risk. The proposed law cites the opinion of the World Health Organization (WHO) that indoor e-cig use be banned due to what amounts to a wholly unproven danger.
Conversely, the WHO has also released reports alleging proven cancer risks from all sorts of items, from cell phones and diesel engines, but I don’t see Cantrell and Guidry proving their health-crusading credentials by taking on those technologies. Instead, the few early studies that have been performed on e-cigs have not shown any verifiable health risks from secondhand exposure.
It is true that the FDA is pushing for increased federal regulation of e-cigs, but in the absence of anything resembling a proven health risk, it’s obscenely premature to sic the NOPD on people using e-cigs in public.
I’ve gone on record as disfavoring any expansion of New Orleans’ anti-smoking laws, but I’d like to believe that even those who want an indoor smoking ban can agree that this proposed ordinance simply goes too far and needs to be fundamentally reworked. A lot of people, including Mayor Landrieu, have indicated their support for the law in the abstract. Now that this dreck has finally been released, I for one am hoping to see some pullback.
Even if we elect to ban smoking in casinos and bars, it makes sense to allow smokers to go outside. It makes sense to exempt cigar bars and hookah lounges. And it makes sense to ignore e-cigs entirely because the best evidence indicates they’re harmless.
But what’s on the table now isn’t reasoned policy; it’s a fanatical manifesto. It has “crippling doubt” written all over it, and that’s why it needs to be rejected.
Owen Courr?ges, a New Orleans attorney and resident of the Garden District, offers his opinions for UptownMessenger.com on Mondays. He has previously written for the Reason Public Policy Foundation.
DRAFT OF CANTRELL’S SMOKING BAN RELEASED
November 22nd, 2014
By Ashley Larsen
The state legislature has routinely taken a pass on passing anti-smoking legislation. However, New Orleans City Councilwomen LaToya Cantrell proposed an ordinance to tackle the issue in New Olrelans. The proposed measure is severe elliminating smoking not only in bars, but many outdoor areas.
The ordinance would ban smoking (defined to include vaping or e-cigs as well) in a large part of the city; so it might be easier to talk about where smoking wouldn’t be illegal. Puffing will be permitted in private homes, any retail tobacco business or manufacturer of tobacco, hotel rooms designated as a smoking room, private cars, and private apartments in assisted living residences that have written authorization to smoke.
But smoking within 25 feet of a bar? Or a park? Outdoor public events? Toll-booth lines? That would not be allowed under the proposed ordinance.
The draft forbids smoking in bars and casinos as well as outdoor areas like patios and courtyards attached to businesses. Plus, smoking within 25 feet of a business entrance would be illegal.
The 25-paged ordinance would also ban smoking in parks, and 25 feet away from parks, outdoor public transportation areas, and within 25 feet of said areas, within 200 feet of schools (unless you live within those boundaries), any property next to any property owned by the city of New Orleans, outdoor shopping malls, outdoor parking, outdoor arenas, outdoor services lines (like bank tellers even if you’re in your car), any place of employment where two or more people will work, and outdoor common areas of apartment buildings.
In addition, the ban prohibits anyone from selling/donating/distributing any tobacco products within 300 feet of a church, park, public library, school, or day care facility.
So, effectively, the legislation would make smoking on the streets of the Quarter, Frenchmen, and much of the CBD/Warehouse District illegal.
The ban has found support in the form of Mitch Landrieu and several New Orleans city council members.
The measure references the U.S. Surgeon General’s Reports and lists the health consequences of smoking and states “establishing smokefree workplaces is the only effective way to ensure that secondhand smoke exposure does not occur in the workplace.”
It also states: “evidence from peer-reviewed studies show that smokefree policies and laws do not have an adverse economic impact on the hospitality industry.”
Also, according to the California Environmental Protection Agency “exposure to secondhand smoke has serious health effects , including low birth-weight babies; sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); increased respiratory infections in children.”
Impacted businesses would be required to post “no smoking” signs and remove all ashtrays.
Businesses that don’t enforce the ordinance would be penalized $500 and anyone who is caught smoking in violation would be subject to a $50 fine.
Many critics of the bill say that smoking is already on its way out, and that a law isn’t necessary.
Recently, many state colleges have gone smoke-free, University of New Orleans was required to go smoke-free by August 1st and many private colleges are making their own bans, Tulane also went smoke-free in August.
If approved, the ordinance would take effect thirty days after adoption.
PDF of proposal
Will All New Orleans Bars Soon Be Smoke-Free?
July 28, 2014
By MALORIE MARSHALL
Smoking in bars might become a thing of the past in New Orleans. City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell and other organizations recently brought a smoke-free week to the city. That’s meant to raise support for a ban on smoking in bars.
Malorie Marshall attended Smoke-Free Week’s town hall and spoke with local smokers and non-smokers about what a smoking ban could mean for local business.
New Orleans is known as a place where people like to unwind. Go-cups, ice-cold daiquiris, rich food, music and good times.
One aspect of this experience might be about to change.
Elizabeth Stella attended a recent town hall meeting at Carrollton Station. The topic: smoking in New Orleans’ bars, something Stella is very vocal about. “I’ll tell you what,” Stella said during the meeting. “I’m sick and tired of being treated like a dog by this society because I happen to be a smoker. I have rights too, I pay taxes. Sometimes I think I’m living in the Soviet U nion. When I was a kid this wasn’t even a damn issue.”
Smoke-free week was a campaign sponsored by Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell and the group Healthier Air for All. Cantrell hopes to introduce legislation in November that would ban smoking from local bars. A number of groups showed up to support the ban. Elizabeth Stella was the lone citizen and, apparently, the only smoker.
So far, 27 states have enacted statewide bans on smoking in workplaces, restaurants and bars. None are in the deep South. In 2007, Louisiana implemented the Smoke Free Air Act. That banned smoking in workplaces and restaurants. Bars, bars that serve food, casinos and a few others were exempt. Now there’s a push to include them.
“So we’re really looking at this holistically,” Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell said. “This is not an attack, this is about healthier environments for all people. Those who work in these environments, musicians, employees. But the majority of the people now within our city and even state, close to 80 percent are non-smokers.”
Cantrell says it’s about everyone having the chance to be healthy. People who work in bars and other places that allow smoking consume 300 to 600 percent more second-hand smoke according to the U.S. Surgeon General.
Over 100 New Orleans bars have already gone smoke-free. Carrollton Station is one of them. Owner Mike Miller says the health of his business had to be weighed in that decision.
“That had to be the hardest ever,” Miller said. “I mean it’s like we’ve got eight customers; five of them chain smoke, and uh, they’re all going to leave. And four of them did. It’s like, if you already have a good business, why on earth would you do that? You know, it’s hard.”
Banning smoking will send bar-goers outside. Neighbors might have a problem with that. But pushing smokers outdoors may drive more patrons inside.
Some customers at Pal’s, a Mid-City bar that allows smoking, say a smoking ban might help business.
“Before they could bring their dogs in, [it was a] dog-friendly bar,” doorman Eddie Keith said. “[They] can’t bring the dogs back, so they still come. So, people adjust all the time.”
A patron named Michelle said, “I try to avoid bars that have smoke in them because I take a shower and then I’m like, ‘I don’t want to go there because I’m gonna smell like smoke.’”
“I think long term most bars that go smoke-free are going to recognize that they’re probably going to make more money, because more people are going to spend more time there,” said Graham Gibby.
Text messages from WWNO’s Listening Post project showed people around the city are mostly in support of a smoking ban. Here are a few responses:
“Yes, I would go to some bars more often if they weren’t so much smoke!”
“YES! I definitely consider whether or not the bar allows smoking before I decide if I’m going to go for a drink or listen to music or something. I have lived in a number of cities that have instituted smoking bans, and after the initial grumbling, everything kind of went back to normal.”
“I do consider smoking and much prefer smoke-free bars. However, I appreciate the freedom of bars to decide in New Orleans.”
Cantrell’s camp says they don’t have any legislation written yet. But, the end result will be an ordinance that comes for a vote before the City Council.