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New Orleans is now smoke-free in bars, public places

Staff writer |
Starting at midnight Tuesday, smoking is now illegal in bars, gambling halls and many other public places in New Orleans.

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For many locals, a ban on smoking seemed unthinkable in this city that loves to tout itself as the capital of the laissez-faire attitude. The prohibition includes smoking electronic cigarettes indoors in public places.

The ban was passed over the objections of bar owners and Harrah's New Orleans, the city's major downtown casino. Last Friday, owners of the casino and dozens of other businesses filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the ordinance from taking effect. A state judge declined to stop the city from enforcing the ban but set a May 21 hearing on the matter.

Business owners warn that the ban may cut into revenues by as much as 20 percent in the first year. The City Council passed the smoking ordinance in late January and Mayor Mitch Landrieu quickly signed it into law. The city's leaders are supporting the ban primarily as a health measure and say bans in other cities have not hurt business profits in the long run.

The ban, though, will be a big change in a city with more than 500 bars, many of them neighborhood hangouts where smoking is part of the fabric of life.

In Louisiana, about 25 percent of adults smoke, according to federal data. At least 12 major U.S. cities allow smoking in public places—generally bars—according to the American Lung Association.

The other cities are Philadelphia; Atlanta; Miami; Las Vegas; Fort Worth and Arlington, Texas; Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee; Jacksonville, Florida; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma. â– 

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