Just before midnight on Tuesday, April 22 patrons of the more than 500 restaurants, bars, and casinos in New Orleans lit their last cigarettes indoors. According to the Associated Press, “[casino] employees handed out lollipops to smoking gamblers at the stroke of midnight and removed ashtrays from the casino’s gambling floors.” The Big Easy is the latest US city to officially enact a smoking ban in public areas.
Louisiana state law had previously banned smoking in restaurants. Prior to the wide-spread ban some bar and club owners voluntarily prohibited smoking in their establishments. In an effort to do away with smoking in public places City Council member LaToya Cantrell proposed a sweeping smoking ban last fall. After some revisions the council approved.
Reactions to the anti-smoking ordinance have been mixed. Understandably nonsmokers, including musicians who performed in smoky local venues, are pleased. On the other hand, objections have been made by some business owners claiming the ban will negatively affect business and infringes on the city’s freedom.
Smokers looking to step outside for a smoke will have to step at least five feet away from the windows and doors of restaurants, bars, casinos, sporting arenas, and hotels. If the establishment is owned or operated by the city or state, smoking is permitted twenty five feet from the entrance. Fortunately electronic cigarettes aren’t tobacco, so vaping is permitted indoors, right? Wrong.
The ban includes electronic cigarettes. Using an e-cigarette is forbidden in all of the same places as cigarettes. According to Gilbert Morris, a molecular biologist at Tulane University School of Medicine’s pathology department, “there’s not enough data to say that e-cigarettes don’t have harmful side effects. And until we know more, we should treat them exactly as tobacco cigarettes.”
Morris also said, “we know that e-cigarettes are not as bad as tobacco smoke. That’s just a given. So if you’re trying to switch someone off of cigarettes and onto e-cigarettes, that’s a good thing. The bad thing is the other way around, when people use e-cigarettes as a gateway to try tobacco cigarettes.”
Earlier in the week additional information was released and the “gateway” myth was debunked. Subjecting electronic cigarettes to the same regulations as tobacco because they mimic the act of smoking or because of unwarranted fears is not a justifiable reason. This smoking ban has potential to be a positive move for smokers as well as nonsmokers. If smokers were allowed to use electronic cigarettes freely, there is potential for decreasing the number of cigarettes smoked per day and possibly quitting altogether.