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Smoke-Free Week in New Orleans Not for Everybody

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - Half-way through “smoke-free week” at New Orleans bars and some are ready to call it quits.

“This is going to be a disaster for New Orleans,” says bar customer Elizabeth Stella, concerning any future ordinance which would ban smoking in bars. “I left California on account of that.”

The “no smoking in bars” debate is at Carrolton Station Wednesday where they’ve seen an economic upswing since banning inside smoking a year and a half ago.

“Since we went smoke free, we have doubled business,” says Mike Miller. “And I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Stella fears the local tourism industry could take a financial hit, “People are going to come here, be met with this non-smoking reception, and they are not going to come back. This kind of thing should be strictly on the will of the owner.”

Parasols bartender Billy Nothnagle has worked in both smoking and non-smoking bars.

“A lot of people smoke. I don’t smoke,” says Nothnagle whose worked in both smoking and non-smoking bars.

Nothnagle says if given a choice, “I would go with the smoking bar for sure. It’s better for business. We probably get 30% to 40% decrease in people if we didn’t smoke. It’s all about making your customers feel welcome.”

“We know this can be done because it’s been done before,” says John Pourciau, Legislative director for New Orleans council member Latoya Cantrell.

Pourciau says a city-wide smoke free bars ordinance could be drafted by this fall, “We can have economically viable bars in this city and also have bars that don’t allow smoke. There are places where bars have banned smoking and those bars continue to do well.”

Stella says her stance will remain firm, “This is no Denver, or Seattle, or Los Angeles or any other cardboard cutout city in America. This is New Orleans. If they want this to be a democratic process, put it one the damn ballot.”

Learn more about smoke-free week – www.healthierairforall.org/events