Those "smokers' chimneys" ashtrays directly outside the doors of New Orleans businesses may be moving farther away, now that a legislative committee has sent House Bill 379 to the Louisiana House of Representatives for floor debate. Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, filed the bill, which would make it illegal for anyone to smoke within 25 feet of a building entrance that isn't a bar, casino or private residence. Hoffman's HB 307 would also apply the same regulation to the exteriors of state buildings.
Hoffman's bills are among several in the 2012 legislative session that attempt to regulate smoking in Louisiana. HB 80, by Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mandeville, would allow the state Department of Health and Hospitals to make its psychiatric facilities smoke-free, while HB 127, the "Louisiana Workforce Health Improvement Act," by Rep. Herbert Dixon, D-Alexandria, would repeal existing laws "prohibit[ing] an employer from requiring an employee to abstain from smoking."
Mary Martin Fein, communications manager for the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) and Tobacco-Free Living, says the group "supports policies that protect all Louisianans from secondhand smoke. However, we do not support discriminatory labor laws." As for Hoffmann's proposals, Fein says the group is taking no position while it looks into the specific language of the bills.
A smoking ban for Louisiana bars, which was proposed in the 2010 and 2011 sessions, doesn't seem to be in the cards this year. Since last year's bill failed, Alexandria became Louisiana's first city to prohibit smoking in bars. The law took effect in January. — Kevin Allman