A Senate-backed attempt to ban smoking in Louisiana bars and casinos has been snuffed out. The House Health and Welfare Committee refused the bill in an 8-4 vote Tuesday, a step that was expected to kill the measure for another legislative session. The Senate passed a similar bill last year, only to see it die in the House. The state already prohibits smoking in restaurants, public places, public buildings and most places of employment.
The proposal by Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Livonia, would have extended that prohibition to bars, casinos, off-track betting facilities and other gambling spots.
Supporters said the bill would improve the health of workers and patrons at bars and casinos, with Marionneaux citing statistics that secondhand smoke is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
Musician David Egan, who said he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004 and has been in remission for five years, asked the House committee to back the bill.
“As a professional musician, I have spent decades in smoke-filled venues,” he said, arguing he shouldn’t have to be subjected to smoky clubs in order to perform and provide for his family.
Opponents said a smoking ban could harm businesses financially, keeping some of their current customers at home, and could cut into the state’s revenue when patrons stop frequenting casinos that pay hefty Louisiana taxes.
Marionneaux called that a “scare tactic” and argued that evidence in other states with similar smoking ban refutes those assertions. Alcohol and gambling industry lobbyists also argued people can choose to avoid the facilities if they don’t want the secondhand smoke exposure.
“We’re only talking about adult establishments where adults are making those decisions,” said Alton Ashy, a lobbyist for the video poker industry.
Chris Young, representing the Louisiana Association of Beverage Alcohol Licensees, said, “Driving kills more people than smoking, and we don’t ban driving.”
Voting to reject the bill were Reps. Kay Katz, R-Monroe, committee chair; Richard Burford, R-Stonewall; Jean Doerge, D-Minden; Robert Johnson, D-Marksville; John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie; Bernard LeBas, D-Ville Platte; Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs; and Tom Willmott, R-Kenner.
Voting against the rejects were Reps. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge; Walker Hines, D-New Orleans; Rick Nowlin, R-Natchitoches; and Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs.