Louisiana's restaurants, public places, public buildings and most other places of employment became smoke-free with the start of the new year.
The “Louisiana Smokefree Air Act,” sponsored by Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Livonia, prohibits smoking in most businesses around Louisiana, leaving people to do as they'd like in their homes and cars (unless they're using their homes as day care facilities).
However, there are a few other major exceptions where smoking still is allowed: bars, casinos, horse racing tracks, off-track betting facilities, bingo halls, hotel rooms, tobacco stores, Mardi Gras ball facilities and assisted living and nursing home facilities where people have requested to be in smoking rooms. Also, customers can smoke on outdoor patios at restaurants, and prisoners can smoke in Louisiana's jails until 2009.
The smoking ban legislation failed for several years until it passed in the 2006 regular session. Supporters said it was needed to clean up the air that nonsmokers breathe, while smokers said it was an infringement on their rights and restaurants said it would send more business to bars that serve food and where patrons can smoke.
“They just don't want to lose any business under a loophole in the law,'' said Tom Weatherly, with the Louisiana Restaurant Association.
Tommy Lotz, with the Louisiana chapter of the American Lung Association, said Louisiana's new law doesn't go far enough.
He would like to see it include bars and casinos.