Smoking debate in Louisiana

I’m interviewed in a solid article in the Gambit about the effort to extend Louisiana’s smoking ban to bars and casinos. Of interest is this bit about how the market is providing the smoke-free venues consumers demand:

The campaign frequently partners with music venues to host a night of smoke-free music and events — and some of those venues, including d.b.a. and Tipitina’s, have made the switch to prohibit smoking in their clubs. Let’s Be Totally Clear now lists more than 30 New Orleans bars and venues in its smoke-free directory, from AllWays Lounge on St. Claude Avenue, to Chickie Wah Wah in Mid-City, to Maison on Frenchmen Street and Cure on Freret Street. This year, the directory added both d.b.a. and the bar at the Columns Hotel to its list of smoking-prohibited venues. Contreras says the number of smoke-free clubs in the city has doubled since 2009.

Republic made the switch in spring 2007, more than a year after it opened, and offers a smoking patio adjacent to the club’s main floor. Owner Robert LeBlanc’s other ventures like Capdeville, loa and LePhare also prohibit smoking. LeBlanc says the venues went smoke-free to protect employees, who LeBlanc says were formerly surrounded by “heavy, heavy smoke clouds,” though he admits he was “tepid” about the decision at the beginning.

“We have a pretty young workforce, so it’s not like we saw a lot of ill effects,” he says. “It’s just one of those things you just kind of see in the future — it’s not going to end well.” LeBlanc also works closely with TFL and says he is “very supportive in telling people the benefits in our experience, being candid and opening the books, for what we went through” making the switch.

But — surprise — LeBlanc wouldn’t support a ban.

“Bar owners and restaurant owners should have choices,” he says. “I’m not in favor of forcing people to do something against their will with blanket legislation.”

My only quibble with the article is that it doesn’t provide any rebuttal to overhyped claims of secondhand smoke’s dangers. Evidence to the contrary continues to go unreported. But overall, a really good piece.