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EBR Metro Council approves proposed ban of smoking from bars, casinos

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An ordinance to ban smoking from bars and casinos in the parish was approved by the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council Wednesday, August 9, 2017.

The time for lighting up inside area bars and casinos is limited now that the council has moved ahead with the controversial decision. 

Council members passed the measure in a 7 to 5 vote after deferring it for two months in June and coming to a gridlock over a similar ban last year. There was no shortage of folks fired up on both sides of the issue at Wednesday's meeting.

"Your fines are an unjustified infliction of suffering on peaceful, consenting adults," one speaker against the measure said.

"I've never smoked a cigarette in my life and I don't feel that secondhand smoke should affect me," another speaker in support of the ban said.

Perhaps the most emotional plea though came from George Newman, a 79-year-old veteran and former smoker who literally begging the council for relief, addressing them while using his throat ventilator.

"Please, please enforce and pass a smoking ban and make sure that it is enforced," Newman said.

For some, the smoking ban has been a long time coming. It is a victory Raegan Carter with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living says did not come easy.

"We've put in a lot of hard work," Carter said. "We've worked tireless hours with our sponsors, with our coalition partners and our national, state and local organizations to make this happen."

While opponents of the ban are concerned about losing money and customers, Phil Brady's Bar & Grill owner Joe Hall says it's just the opposite. His bar has been smoke-free on the weekends for close to 15 years now.

"We see the crowds increase when there's a no smoking show compared to a smoking show," said Hall.

The smoke-free ordinance will not take effect until June but Hall says he is already prepared with a patio in the back of his business for smokers. He encourages other bar owners to create a similar space before next year's deadline.

"As long as they've got somewhere to go they're going to go outside," Hall added. "They're not going to give you a big fight about it and they're not going to cuss and fuss. They're going to go outside and smoke."

As far as affecting attendance, Marcus Wampler, a customer who does smoke says he is not concerned.

"It may in the beginning but in the long run, I think people are going to just accept it and you know move along with it," said Wampler.

Enforcement of the city's smoking ordinance will fall on police. The ban does not include city's like Zachary, Baker and Central.