“Would you like to be seated in smoking or nonsmoking?”
It has been over 10 years since Louisiana restaurants went smoke-free, following the passage of the Louisiana Smoke-Free Air Act in 2006. The standard quickly became commonplace and our collective recollection of smoking in restaurants has become as faded and anachronistic as smoking in hospital delivery rooms or grocery stores.
Now, over 25 states and Washington, D.C., have passed statewide ordinances making enclosed public spaces smokefree. Primarily, these smoke-free air laws protect patrons and workers from involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke.
In states like Louisiana without a statewide ban, major cities have taken the initiative themselves. Louisiana cities with smoke-free bars include New Orleans (2015), Baton Rouge (2017), Lafayette (2017), and Monroe/West Monroe (2013) as well as many other small communities.
It’s common knowledge that tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, and that over 40,000 people every year die from disease acquired by secondhand smoke. Several major tobacco companies were found liable for fraudulently covering up health risks associated with smoking and marketing their products to children decades ago.
Because of the scientific consensus on the negative health consequences of smoking, we believe that no employee, vendor, or entertainer should have to choose between their health and a paycheck, regardless of where they choose to work or why. Every citizen in Shreveport-Bossier deserves a healthy, smoke-free workplace, so the Heliopolis editorial team want the list of smoke-free cities in Louisiana to include both Shreveport and Bossier City (2019).
While some will continue to argue that business owners have a right to choose their own public health standards, a growing majority understand the presence of second-hand smoke infringes on others’ freedom not to smoke.
While the full report has not yet been published, Mayor Adrian Perkins’ Transition Entertainment Committee listed support for smoke-free bars and clubs in Shreveport-Bossier as their #1 recommendation to improving nightlife at their final meeting, which was open to the public. Similarly, since 2001, a majority of Americans have supported restricting smoking in public places, and local straw-polls continue to find overwhelming support for smoke-free bars and clubs, including 80% in favor from 1,300 responses from Heliopolis’s Editor and 90% of responses from local lifestyle blog Loving This Life Jada. Even musicians, who work in nightlife establishments, are taking a stand; groups like The Wall Chargers and Ouro Boar have become known for playing smokefree venues.
Rather than dive farther into if Shreveport and Bossier City should be smoke-free indoors, we see the writing on the walls and ask when and how?
In 2018, Shreveport’s Public Safety Committee, comprised of four City Councilmembers, had preliminary discussions on the topic. With a newly elected City Council, the ordinance needs to be brought up again. If passed out of Committee, the full City Council would vote on the policy. Bossier City’s council operates in a similar fashion and could undergo their own process on creating smokefree work environments. In Monroe City and West Monroe, the two localities passed complementary (but slightly different) policies at the same time, and because of expressed concerns from business owners about unfair competition, we believe that Shreveport and Bossier City should do the same.
Shreveport-Bossier still has a significant smoking population, and Louisiana has a higher than average number of smoking adults and high school students. With this in mind, there are several ways to help ensure that smoking patrons are not excluded from the nightlife community. Foremost, the City of Shreveport has already created a “sidewalk cafe” ordinance, allowing downtown bars and restaurants to create outdoor seating where patrons can drink and smoke, and this should be expanded so that, rather than closing a tab or leaving an untended drink behind, patrons can step outside without leaving the atmosphere of the establishment.
Additionally, most cities have given an “on-ramp” time frame for policies to take effect, which allow months before the policy takes effect. Also, it’s expected that any ordinance would exempt cigar bars or lounges whose business model primarily caters specifically to smoking patrons.
Luckily, Shreveport-Bossier is – by far – not the first community to have this discussion. Being behind the times allows us to take into consideration what has worked and what hasn’t regarding the implementation of smokefree ordinances.
“Meta-analyses” systematically review all of the available research on the economic impacts of smoke-free policies on local, state, and regional hospitality industries, which reduce the risk of bias or singling out examples for one’s personal argument.
A 2003 review of 97 such studies, including 31 of those studies funded by the tobacco industry directly or indirectly, concluded that, “All of the best designed studies report no impact or a positive impact of smoke-free restaurant and bar laws on sales or employment. Policymakers can act to protect workers and patrons from the toxins in secondhand smoke confident in rejecting industry claims that there will be an adverse economic impact” (Scollo).
A 2014 article reviewed 56 studies and analyzed 39 comparable studies found:
“All cases showed no associations between smoking bans and changes in absolute sales or employment. An increase in the share of bar and restaurant sector sales in total retail sales was associated with smoking bans…The economic impact of smoking bans in hospitality sector showed overall no substantial economic gains or losses. Differential impacts were observed across individual business types and outcome variable” (Cornelsen).
Even though the facts show no significant changes to bar sales or employment, anecdotes from other communities relay that a bar or club’s happy hour patrons increases while a late-night crowds tend to drop off with a smoke-free ordinance. Additionally, while food sales bump up, there is an adjustment period for bar sales.
Therefore, supportive readers can help by patronizing our local establishments, having an extra drink, or visiting a place outside of one’s usual haunts when an ordinance moves forward. For many who have given up smoking or prefer smoke-free environments, we hope this policy would draw you back to see all that Shreveport-Bossier’s nightlife community has to offer.
In conclusion, for the serious long-term health of our friends and family in the service industry and entertainment business and for those who want to support Shreveport-Bossier nightlife, we call on our leadership in Shreveport and Bossier to move quickly and definitively to create clean air policies for our community.