You may have heard the Louisiana Legislature eked through a tax hike on cigarettes — 50 cents more per pack — but one aspect of the bill went underreported. House Bill 119 also sought to bump taxes on "premium cigars" from 20 to 25 percent and to increase pipe tobacco taxes by 17 percent. However, those increases got squelched by lawmakers after lobbying by the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR).
That group is holding its 83rd annual convention in New Orleans July 17-21 — its first in the city since the smoking ban went into effect. The law was specifically written to exclude the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center during events like this one, and IPCPR prepared a handout for attendees listing places they could smoke and assuring them tourism officials would accommodate them. Along with a list of restaurants and bars with outdoor patios, the handout said, "IPCPR is working closely with the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau to develop an even more comprehensive list of 'smoker friendly' venues, bars and restaurants for our members."
One of the arguments for the local ordinance was that some medical conventions would no longer consider coming to cities without bans. District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who led the fight for the city ordinance, estimated there were more than two dozen major conventions that wouldn't consider coming to New Orleans without the new law. The IPCPR already had scheduled its 2015 meeting here before the ban was enacted. At press time, IPCPR public relations director Kyle Whalen had not responded to a query as to whether the group would return.