The municipal smoking ordinance passed unanimously last week by the New Orleans City Council may serve as a test case for other Southern cities considering a comprehensive ban. New Orleans is the largest city in Louisiana to enact such an ordinance, and it's one of the first in the South. If it can happen here, says Tonia Moore with the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living, it can happen almost anywhere.
"This is a huge victory," Moore told Gambit. "Montgomery, Alabama, is in the process of doing this. The state of Kentucky, they're watching. They know this is a city where millions of tourists come and partake in the culture and traditions, and they also want to participate in smoke-free and healthy lifestyles."
District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell announced her plan to introduce a smoke-free ordinance in July 2014. After rounds of amendments from Cantrell and several other council members, the measure in its final form allows smoking only in outdoor areas (such as patios and courtyards) of bars, restaurants and casinos; in existing cigar and hookah bars (which have been grandfathered in and cannot allow cigarette smoking); at smoking and vape conventions and Mardi Gras balls; and in vape shops (vaping only). A last-minute amendment removed a distance requirement that would have forced smokers 5 feet from the door.
At-Large Councilman Jason Williams amended the ordinance to remove language designating the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) as an enforcement agency. NOPD and the forthcoming NOLA Patrol will not enforce the ban — it will be incumbent upon business owners to tell smokers to step outside, with city agencies responsible for enforcement. Fines for smoking in prohibited areas begin at $50.
Good news/bad news for tourists: The ordinance makes 100 percent of the city's hotel and motel rooms nonsmoking — but also exempts Bourbon Street from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue from having any smoking distance requirement.
The ordinance is scheduled to take effect April 22.