It’s the end of a hazy era in the Big Easy. New Orleans has just passed a sweeping smoking ban that forbids people from lighting up in bars, clubs, casinos, parks, businesses, sports arenas, and theaters. The New Orleans City Council unanimously voted to outlaw smoking and electronic cigarettes in any indoor and outdoor public space after determining that smoking is not a constitutional right. The new law will go into effect in 90 days, and fines will begin at $50. Further violations can total as much as $500 each, if they are committed in the same year.
According to many advocates of the ban, indoor smoking particularly affects bartenders, waiters, and musicians, and other employees who constantly breathe in secondhand smoke. Many customers can choose to just go to another bar or restaurant, but finding a new smokeless job is harder than it looks.
“Business owners have no legal or constitutional right to expose their employees and customers to the toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke,” the new ordinance says. “On the contrary, employers have a common law duty to provide their workers with a workplace that is not unreasonably dangerous.”
The law does have its many critics, who pine for the days of “old” New Orleans.
“It’s not New York, it’s not Seattle, it’s a party town,” said smoker and resident Elizabeth Stella at one of the City Council hearings on the matter. “A bar is not a health spa and alcohol is not a spa drink.”