An Acadiana lawmaker on Tuesday renewed his pressure to ban smoking in bars, casinos and sports arenas.
If Opelousas Democratic Representative Dustin Miller succeeds in clearing the committees and both houses, Louisiana would soon be the first southern state to have a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law.
He avoided a vote last week on his Bill 881 and vowed to speak with concerned business owners about how a ban would affect their businesses. Legislation is back on Tuesday’s agenda for the House health and wellness committee.
Miller said he wanted to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke.
âThe rights of a non-smoker do not end where the rights of a smoker begin,â he said at the meeting. âNo one should have to choose between their health and a salary. “
A law passed in 2007 banned smoking in restaurants and most public places. HB881, if passed, would come into effect in January 2019.
Ashley and Friday Ellis were among the opponents who testified last week, saying it could hurt their business. They are the owners of Governors Cigar & Pipe in Monroe. Friday Ellis called the measure “overly broad” because it would force his small business to compete with online businesses.
The couple stressed that everyone who buys into their business is aware of the risks inherent in smoking and secondhand smoke, and said that “the inherent risks are what make us inherently American.”
âPeople don’t come to buy the cigar, but to buy the experience,â said Ashley Ellis.
Miller said he was okay with the couple and didn’t want to bankrupt anyone. He then decided to address this concern before raising it again, as the bill was “a bit outdated in some areas”.
âI am not attacking smokers, I am not attacking business owners,â Miller said. âI’m just trying to defend the unintended effects of second-hand smoke. “
The US Surgeon General has ruled that exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and serious respiratory disease.
Raegan Carter, senior director of tobacco control and prevention at the Louisiana Public Health Institute, said 78 percent of Louisiana residents do not smoke.
Smoking among adults has declined, according to the Smoke-free Louisiana Campaign Coalition. Over the past two years, smoking among adults has increased from 23.5% of adult smokers in 2013 to 22.8% in 2015-16. However, the smoking rate in Louisiana is still higher than the national rate of 15.5%.
Miller’s measure worries those involved in the Louisiana gaming industry.
Alton Ashy, a lobbyist for the Louisiana Video Gaming Association, said the industry directly employs more than 15,000 in the state and 10,000 other indirect employees. As Louisiana’s most taxed industry, truck stops pay 32.5% in taxes per year, and bars and restaurants pay 26.5% in state taxes, which translates to $ 180 million. dollars in direct tax revenue and an overall economic impact of $ 360 million, he mentioned.
âThis is not someone behind a curtain pulling strings – it is, by law, citizens of Louisiana who are involved in the video game industry,â Ashy said.
Louisiana Casino Association executive director Wade Duty said cities should tackle the problem rather than spreading statewide.
New Orleans passed a law in 2015 banning indoor smoking and the use of e-cigarettes as a way to protect service workers and musicians from second-hand smoke. Baton Rouge banned smoking in the city’s bars and casinos in August 2017.
Miller said casino executives can’t blame smokeless air for lower revenues because the ban won’t take place in Baton Rouge until June. âAt the end of the day, the game is volatile, and being smoke-free inside isn’t the reason,â Miller said.
Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, quit smoking 40 years ago when his doctor told him continuing to smoke would kill his daughter, who had lung problems at the time. And while he has said he would like to vote for the measure, his riding’s biggest taxpayer, which owns a video poker establishment, fears it could hurt the business.
âHe’s the highest taxpayer in your area, but we’re going to continue to use his money to pay for asthma treatments, emphysema treatments, lung cancer treatments,â Miller said.
Miller said Louisiana suffers nearly $ 1.89 billion in health care costs each year for smoking-related deaths.
Women of color are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, said Ashley Hebert, director of government relations at the American Heart Association. She said so many women of color work in Louisiana casinos that telling them to âget over it and find another jobâ shouldn’t be an option.
âIt’s really not that easy for communities of color,â Hebert said. âWhat’s easy is asking a smoker to come out and smoke. “