After unsuccessful attempts to pass a law that prohibits smoking in casinos, bars and sports arenas across the state, a lawmaker from Acadiana arranged Thursday for an investigation into attempts to protect non-smokers against passive smoking.
House Concurrent Resolution 76 was approved Thursday on a 33-0 vote in the Senate.
The Louisiana Public Health Institute is called upon in the resolution to convene a committee of 22 members, chosen by associations representing health, business, gambling and local government interests. The commission gathers information on how tobacco smoke inhaled by non-smokers, medical costs and diseases, and compares the economic consequences of implementing a smoke-free policy throughout the state in other parishes and states.
"Not that there is not a lot of information there, I felt like Louisiana companies and lawmakers had to go to the table to talk," said Opelousas Democrat and main sponsor of the law, Rep. Dustin Miller.
In April, Miller proposed HB881 to extend the existing law, which was passed in 2006 to ban smoking in restaurants and most public places, to bars, casinos, and sports arenas.
But after hearing worries from entrepreneurs at a meeting of the House Health and Welfare Committee on April 12, Miller made his attempt to promote the all-embracing smoking ban across the state and put the legislation on the back burner before he finally decided to form a study committee. Beginning no later than August 1, the committee would have until March 8, 2019 to report its findings to the legislature. Miller said he would expect the problem to be discussed again next year.
"There are no plans to keep the pressure on to implement this in the state," he said.
American Heart Association Director of Government Director Ashley Hebert, whose organization will serve in committee, said the study intends to address the inequality between municipalities in the state that have a smoke-free policy with casino's and bars and those local authorities that do not.
In 2015, New Orleans approved the legislation to ban smoking indoors and the use of e-cigarettes to protect employees in the services sector and musicians from passive smoking. In August 2017, Baton Rouge banned smoking in the bars and casinos of the city.
In addition, all bars in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Alexandria, Monroe, West Monroe, Hammond and Ouachita Parish are completely non-smoking. Some bars in Shreveport, Lake Charles and the Houma / Thibodaux areas have banned smoking, according to the organization Healthier for All.
Twenty-five states have implemented comprehensive smoke-free laws that relate to workplaces, restaurants and bars, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Those states include Arizona, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. Colorado, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Mexico and North Carolina have policies that only relate to restaurants and bars.
Representatives of the gambling industry in the state opposed Miller's measure at the committee meeting on 12 April because they feared that the law would damage state revenues.
Alton Ashy, a lobbyist for the Louisiana Video Gaming Association, told the committee that gambling yields $ 180 million in direct tax revenues and directly employs more than 15,000 in the state.
Although Miller sympathizes with the tax revenues of the game industry, he says he is more concerned with the effects and costs of smoking health care.
At the committee meeting, Miller said that the state is running nearly $ 1.89 billion annually in health care costs for smoking-related deaths. The campaign for tobacco-free children and the tobacco state toll reported a total of $ 803 million in Medicaid costs caused by smoking in Louisiana.
"We are convinced that the economic development in Louisiana is a great asset," said Hebert in response to the decline of casinos. "Smoking air is also part of that."