New Orleans Nears Vote On Smoking Ban In Bars And Casinos

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A contested ordinance to ban smoking in the bars and casinos threaded across New Orleans is heading for a showdown and perhaps a vote by the City Council.

         On Thursday morning, the council was scheduled to debate, and possibly vote on, the proposed ordinance backed by many of the city's most prominent musicians — including Deacon John Moore, a well-known rhythm and blues band leader and musicians' union president, and trumpeter Kermit Ruffins.

         But the opposition has been stiff too. Opposing the ban are late-night entertainment businesses, bar owners and the casino industry. They worry a ban on smoking will hurt business.

         New Orleans is one of the last major American cities to allow people to smoke tobacco in bars. Smoking at indoor restaurants is no longer permitted.

         Since being proposed last year, the ordinance has been scaled back to allow smoking in public parks and within 5 feet of a bar.

         This week, one council member proposed removing the New Orleans Police Department as being responsible for enforcing a smoking ban. Jason Williams, a city council member at-large, said the police should not be burdened with enforcing such an ordinance.

         LaToya Cantrell, the council member who introduced the ban, might be open to that change, said David Winkler-Schmit, a Cantrell spokesman.

         It was possible that the council could table a vote Thursday and take more time to consider crafting the ordinance. A majority of the council appears ready to support the ban.

         Opponents held out hope that the council would delay taking action.

         "I think everybody realizes we need to think this over more," said Alex Fein of the Court of Two Sisters restaurant and bar in the French Quarter. He had become a spokesman for the bar and casino industry over the issue.

         In Louisiana, about 25 percent of adults smoke, according to federal data.

         New Orleans is one of only 13 major U.S. cities where smoking in public places — generally bars — is allowed, according to the American Lung Association. The other cities are Philadelphia; Atlanta; Miami; Las Vegas; Fort Worth and Arlington, Texas; Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee; Jacksonville, Florida; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

         – by AP Reporter Cain Burdeau



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