New Orleans Institutes Wide-Ranging Ban on Smoking in Bars

By May Wilkerson 04/23/15

The Big Easy was one of the last holdouts in the country in protecting workers from second-hand smoke.

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A thing of the past in the Big Easy. Shutterstock

New Orleans put the kibosh on smoking in bars at midnight on Wednesday, a move that many believed would never happen in the city known for its raucous nightlife. The New Orleans City Council passed its ban against smoking in most public places, including bars, casinos and restaurants, in January by a unanimous vote, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

Though New Orleans seems like the last place to regulate any form of hedonism, the ban had actually been a long time coming. A Louisiana state law banned smoking in restaurants in 2006, and a number of New Orleans bars and clubs had already prohibited smoking on the premises. Many bar owners objected, claiming they could lose up to 20% in revenues in the first year. A group of bar owners along with downtown casino, Harrah's New Orleans, have joined in filing a lawsuit to stop the ban.

“It’s that overall bohemian kind of free spirit that we have in New Orleans that makes it so unique, and it’s why people love it,” said Shelly Waguespack, the owner of Pat O’Brien's, one of the businesses filing the suit.

But city leaders and proponents of the ban say it is intended to protect the health of service industry workers. Permitting smoking in bars for the sake of business is “exploiting people who have the least access to health care,” said Bethany Bultman, the president of the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic and Assistance Foundation.

New Orleans is one of the last places in the country to ban smoking in bars, with a few major cities, like Las Vegas and Philadelphia, still holding out, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.