January 22, 2015 / 8:40 PM / 5 years ago

Heeding musicians, New Orleans moves to ban smoking in bars

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The New Orleans City Council voted on Thursday to ban smoking in the city’s bars, a move supported by several prominent local musicians who said the issue was for them a matter of workplace health.

Most large U.S. cities already have such restrictions in place, anti-smoking advocates said, though smoking is still permitted in bars in cities including Las Vegas, Atlanta and Miami, and across much of the southeastern United States.

The measure initially proposed in New Orleans included a ban on smoking in many outdoor areas, including parks and at city-sponsored festivals, but council members removed those restrictions before their unanimous vote to bar people from lighting up in bars and casinos.

Smoking has been banned in Louisiana restaurants since 2007.

The measure, which has the support of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, is expected to take effect in April.

“In the same way that government is responsible to make sure that there are guards on dangerous machinery, we are responsible to protect the workers in our city, including the workers in bars and casinos,” said Councilwoman Susan Guidry before casting her vote.

The ban received backing from prominent local musicians, including Kermit Ruffins, Irvin Mayfield and Deacon John Moore. Some bar owners and the casino industry opposed it, warning that it will harm business.

The ban also covers the use of e-cigarettes, angering those who view the metal tubes that heat liquid into an inhalable vapor as less harmful than traditional cigarettes, both to their users and to those inhaling their contents secondhand.

It exempts existing hookah bars, cigar bars, and businesses catering specifically to e-cigarettes, known as vape shops.

Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Mohammad Zargham

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