More Cities Join the Non-Smoking Section of the Country
Are you planning to visit New Orleans for Mardi Gras next year? If so, be prepared to see signs that say “No Smoking” in bars and casinos.
The New Orleans City Council recently approved an ordinance for a total smoke-free ban, which will prohibit smoking in all indoor areas of workplaces, restaurants and bars. The newest law, which will come into effect April 2015, will be the latest policy change in Louisiana to reduce smoking and secondhand smoke exposure.
In the absence of state and federal comprehensive smoke-free policies, cities in Louisiana are taking the initiative to enact total smoke-free bans. In 2011, Alexandria became the first city in Louisiana to enact a comprehensive smoke-free policy. And since then, four more Louisiana cities have followed suit.
A change in Louisiana’s smoking policy is desperately needed. With an adult smoking rate of 25 percent statewide and 20 percent in the city of New Orleans — both of which are above the national average of 18 percent — a change in policy, like the one in New Orleans, will help reduce the negative consequences of smoking for the entire state.
In their recently released State of Tobacco Control 2015 report, the American Lung Association (ALA) gave the state of Louisiana a “B” because their current smoke-free policy is limited in scope and does not include all workplaces and public places. With no new state or federal level smoke-free policies passed in 2014, the ALA report also proclaimed that tobacco control efforts have essentially become stagnant. Currently, 24 states have enacted 100 percent smoke-free laws, giving them a grade of “A,” but there are still 26 states that have limited or non-existent regulations. More than half of these states are located in the South, as shown below.
More States Need to Reserve a Space in the Healthier Section
But this doesn’t mean smoking policy changes have stalled for good. In fact, New Orleans isn’t the only city in the South eyeing a push for more comprehensive smoke-free policies. City officials in Montgomery, AL proposed a similar ordinance. And on a state level, Kentucky’s House panel recently approved a proposal to ban indoor smoking in businesses, workplaces and other public spaces.
As the tobacco-free movement finds its footing in the South, college campuses and multi-housing units are now joining cities and states to enact smoke-free policies. In fact, as of August 2014, Louisiana’s publicly funded universities are now required to implement smoke-free policies on their campuses. These initiatives can reduce secondhand smoke exposure, and also help redefine societal norms around smoking.
So while more and more Southern colleges and cities are choosing to go smoke-free, states in the South will also need to mirror the comprehensive smoke-free policies of cities like New Orleans. This action could help to ensure that Louisiana and other states throughout the South receive better grades in 2016.
Did your state make the grade? Find out here.
Adetutu Adekoya, MA
Adetutu Adekoya is a Research Associate at CASAColumbia