District B New Orleans City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell told Gambit in July that she intended to introduce legislation this fall banning smoking in bars citywide. Her announcement followed statewide legislation prohibiting smoking on state college campuses, which many private universities followed.
At the Nov. 6 council meeting, Cantrell welcomed representatives from Delgado Community College and Dillard and Tulane universities, recognizing their respective student government associations for ensuring tobacco-free campuses. Cantrell said her citywide plan is coming soon, perhaps at a Nov. 12 City Hall press conference to kick off Smoke-Free Week.
"It's something we're looking to put forth in legislation soon," Cantrell said. "The support has been phenomenal, and to know we have support of young adults and colleges is so vital."
Cantrell's proposal received early support from Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Council members Susan Guidry and James Gray. At-large Councilman Jason Williams told Gambit, "Those decisions should be left to the individual business owner."
At last week's council meeting, at-large Councilwoman Stacy Head thanked Cantrell "for continuing to bring this discussion to the forefront." Head also suggested petitioning the state Legislature to change the laws governing cigarette taxes to allow New Orleans to tax tobacco products locally. Louisiana has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the U.S. "We don't want to be No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 on that list," Head said, adding, "If people choose to kill themselves, (we) can tax that."
Guidry said she is "living proof that when you make a building smoke-free, you push people toward going smoke-free." She said she was forced to smoke outside when law offices where she worked went smoke-free, and she ultimately used a nicotine patch to quit smoking. "I don't want to die, I don't want to smell like this," she said, adding her support for a citywide policy. "I know people who smoke, and I get it, and I know how furious you are, but it's so worth it."
"You will die if you smoke, and you'll die early if you smoke," Gray said. "We need to get the message out."
Cantrell noted that the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the National Institute of Public Health "will not return to New Orleans for a convention until New Orleans is smoke-free."