International edition
September 28, 2020

The House vote was 71-29 against the bill

Louisiana house rejects ban on smoking in bars and casinos

(US).- A proposal to ban smoking in bars and gambling facilities was resoundingly defeated this week by the Louisiana House, which embraced arguments of personal freedom over debate about health safety.

T

he House vote was 71-29 against the bill, likely dooming its chances for the session despite support for a similar measure in the state Senate.

In 2007, a law took effect that banned smoking in restaurants, public places, public buildings and most places of employment. The proposal by Representative Gary Smith would require bars, casinos, off-track betting facilities and other gambling spots also to become smoke-free.

Supporters said the bill would protect workers and patrons from health problems tied to secondhand smoke, while also treating bars and casinos the same as restaurants that have been under a smoking ban for two years. Some restaurant owners have complained the smoking ban has cost them business because people can smoke while eating in many bars.

Smith said that two dozen states have similar bans, and that others were considering them. "It's vital to the health of this state that we move in the direction of the rest of the nation, that we protect our employees and we provide a level playing field for our businesses," Smith said, armed with a litany of health statistics and studies about secondhand smoke.

Opponents said people can choose whether to work at a bar or casino and patrons can choose whether to frequent them. "What about the 22 % of people who do smoke? Where are they going to go to enjoy themselves? What about their freedoms?" said Rep. Reed Henderson.

Others also said a ban could decrease business at casinos and race tracks-and hit Louisiana in the pocketbook by shrinking its gambling tax income-an argument that gambling lobbyists used as they worked to defeat the bill.

Representative Karen St. Germain said any loss of state revenue would be tough because lawmakers already are planning deep budget cuts to health care and higher education. "Can we afford to lose those tax revenues?" said Representative Barbara Norton, who represents a city with several riverboat casinos.

Smith cited statistics from other states that had outlawed smoking at casinos and hadn't seen significant drops in casino patronage and income, but that didn't persuade his colleagues. However, the House also refused to roll back the state's current ban on smoking in restaurants. Representative Jeff Arnold proposed an amendment to allow smoking in casinos, bars and restaurants that hold liquor licenses, but it failed on a 37-48 vote.

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