SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — A big change is about to take place in Shreveport and with little, if any, attention to what used to be a hot button issue. The City Council has decided to ban smoking in bars and casinos.
During their virtual meeting, council members heard from a long list of people who support the ban, contending that it will bring in more people and more revenue.
But a smoking ban in casinos was a late amendment to the proposal. And some argue that they should have had time to react before the final vote Tuesday, June 9.
The next day, Councilman Grayson Boucher explained why he and four of his peers approved the smoking ban.
“I just feel like, with myself, and Councilwoman Fuller’s mother died of cancer as well. Councilman Bowman, the great Joyce Bowman, she died of cancer,” Boucher began.
“We have Councilman Flurry, who’s fighting cancer as we speak. And then we have Councilman Nickelson, who’s Dad has served over 40 years as an oncologist in this city.
”So I just believe that the right ingredients of people came together and it was the time to do it," Boucher concluded.
The biggest debate, at least among council members, boiled down to the timing of a smoking ban in all casinos and bars in Shreveport.
Those who support the proposal insisted there’s no better time than the present.
“I just want to point out right now is our best opportunity to open up with clean air in the midst of everything that’s happened with respect to everything going on, in particular with respect to COVID-19," Councilwoman LeVette Fuller said.
"This is our best chance to open up with clean air for all the employees and citizens and taxpayers in our city.”
Councilman James Green argued just the opposite, that you couldn’t pick a worse time to change smoking policies with so many job losses and struggling businesses right now.
“I just think right now before businesses are damaged any more ... . I don’t smoke. I just don’t. But I don’t think that we oughta cripple businesses right now from Shreveport and they go somewhere else.”
For bar owners like Chase Boytim, at Fatty Arbuckles Pub, that vote came as no real surprise. “I don’t smoke and I hate it. I come home and I stink and I just don’t like it, so.
“But, you know, we kind of stayed on the sidelines and just kind of let them, you know, decide what they wanted to do,” Boytim said of city officials. "But I knew it was a matter of time it was going to happen.”
In fact, since reopening after the pandemic shutdown, when they began to serve food, smoking became banned at Fatty Arbuckles anyway.
Boytim: “I honestly think it’s going to help business overall for all the bars.”
Reporter: "You do?"
Boytim: “I do. Maybe not the casinos. But the bars it will help.”
Some casino guests, including a visitor from Dallas who wanted to remain anonymous, said a smoking ban was inevitable and for good reason.
“The secondhand smoke is bad. It’s worse than smoking. You go in there and there’s a cloud of smoke. You know, that’s pretty bad. And I smoke. And I’m trying to quit.”
Since adding casinos to the smoking ban, in an amendment shortly before the council’s final vote on the ordinance, some believe casinos should have been given an opportunity to comment.
But Boucher said the onus to get the casinos’ perspective should not fall to City Council members and them alone.
“The casinos possibly should have come to us and talked to us about it. This is something that’s happening statewide; and we just felt that right now is the time to do it.”
A spokesman for the owner of Sam’s Town casino said they have no comment on the smoking ban.
KSLA News 12 also reached out several times to Eldorado Resort Casino in Shreveport and is still waiting to hear back from them.