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LA policy-makers must extend smoking ban

The good news is the smoking ban in East Baton Rouge Parish, including Baton Rouge, is producing the intended effect. The bad news is some renegade metropolitan areas in Louisiana still discriminate against individuals with pulmonary limitations – but state policy-makers can do something about it.

About a year-and-a-half after the ban, mirroring state law except it included casinos and bars, went into effect, air quality in a sample of those businesses showed indoor air pollution dropped 98 percent. The group that sponsored the testing hailed these results as victory for people employed in those establishments in their avoiding second-hand smoke.

But the real winners are the growing segment of adult Americans who suffer from some kind of respiratory ailment. About three in ten have one of emphysema, asthma, hay fever, sinusitis, or chronic bronchitis. A much smaller proportion have much more serious conditions that require consistent medical intervention to allow them to breathe.

This proportion exceeds the percentage of smokers in America by about double, pitting the two groups against each other. One wants to engage in commercial activities breathing clean air in order not to encounter involuntary medical distress; the other wants to engage in a voluntary activity that disqualifies the other from enjoying the same environment. In this clash of rights, both the numbers of people involved and moral import of their argument favors the banning of smoking near or in all public places (except businesses devoting most of their activity to smoking and in private accommodations).

Louisiana law and many municipal ordinances go a long way towards doing that, but cities comprising three metropolitan areas still don’t go further than state law: Shreveport, Lake Charles, and Houma/Terrebone. It’s no accident that resistance has gone on so long in Shreveport and Bossier City, homes of six casinos, and in Lake Charles, the home of three; studies have long corroborated that people who engage in one addictive behavior like gambling more likely engage in others like smoking, including consumption of alcohol and drugs.

Last legislative session, lawmakers passed a study resolution on protection from second-hand smoke, which must report to the body prior to the 2019 regular session. Any recommendation should include the near-total ban in state statute, which legislators must enact and the governor sign into law.

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