SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) - A state-wide health advocate group has been helping cities and towns all over Louisiana pass smoking bans in bars and casinos. Now their effort is concentrated on New Orleans.
Healthier Air For All is the initiative launched by the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living. Their aim is to make every city, parish and business smoke-free.
Reaction about such a ban in Shreveport-Bossier is mixed.
"We come from a place that there is no smoking allowed anywhere and this is such a big relief, that is why we come here" said Colleen Bartlett, who is visiting Shreveport from Canada with Trevor Bailey.
Shreveport business owner Christopher Anthony moved from California where smoking in bars is also banned. But he feels differently from the Canadian couple about the idea,
"You don't want to go home smelling like second hand smoke, so it is a good idea," said Anthony.
He loves the idea so much, when he opened up this Downtown Shreveport bar, he chose to pay extra money for a restaurant license instead of a bar license to make sure his business would be smoke-free.
"That way I can have families come in and not have to worry about smoking," Anthony explained.
The movement to ban smoking in public spaces is gaining traction in Louisiana. Six cities, towns and even one parish have banned smoking in bars and casinos and now public health advocates have turned their attention to New Orleans.
"It is an interesting dynamic because although you would associate some not so healthy behaviors with New Orleans, the fact is people come from other states expecting bars and casinos to be smoke free and it is very difficult for them to go from smoke free environments to smoke," said Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living representative Jennifer Haneline.
Haneline says it is possible in the future and public health advocates may come to Shreveport-Bossier and other areas to promote the ban.
"All of the cities in Louisiana and the state as a whole are constantly being looked at as to how we can make this happen," she explained.
Haneline helped pass the smoking ban in Ouachita Parish, Monroe, and West Monroe. She says the biggest hurdle was convincing people smoking isn't a right.
"The right to breath clean air, supersede anybody's right to do a behavior that is going to hurt other people," said Haneline.
Still, some in Shreveport-Bossier feel uneasy about the idea.
"To me it is anti American, these are private establishments, you know if they don't like it, they don't have to support them," said a Shreveport resident, who wished not to be named.
"I can't stand the smell of smoke" said a woman walking out of a Shreveport casino.
"I think that a lot of our customers wouldn't be happy with it, they would just go to somewhere else," said an employee at an area casino, who asked not to be identified.
But Anthony says his smoke-free bar continues to attract both smokers and non-smokers.
"Oh yeah I still get a packed house every night," he said.
Haneline says the potential to have a smoking ban in all working places including bars and casinos is there.
"A lot of it is we need people in the community to speak up and go to these places where smoking is still allowed and mention it to the manager" she explained.
"Don't get in a conflict or be mean about it, just say I'd really like this a lot more if it were smoke free, because the more they hear that, then they understand the public does want this. It's not just public health advocates, that is really crucial, because if we don't speak up, then they don't know and think we are happy with it the way it is."
The ordinance to ban smoking in bars and casinos in New Orleans came up for a first reading Thursday. But before it comes to a vote, it has to go through several rounds of talks and public hearings.