NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) -– A new poll released today finds that New Orleans voters overwhelmingly approve of the law prohibiting smoking inside all workplaces, including bars and casinos, after six months in effect. The poll indicates that support for the law has increased as NOLA residents have experienced the benefits of a smoke-free environment.
Nearly 8 out of 10 New Orleans voters support the new law, including 64 percent who strongly favor it. Support for the law has increased from 66 percent in December 2014 to 78 percent today.
NOLA residents recognize the benefits of a smoke-free environment, saying that smoke-free bars and casinos are healthier and more enjoyable. Nearly nine out of ten voters (89 percent) agree that smoke-free bars and casinos “are healthier for customers and employees,” and 85 percent agree that “it has been really nice to go out and enjoy bars and casinos without breathing cigarette smoke or smelling like cigarette smoke” when they get home.
These poll results come on the heels of a recent study finding indoor air pollution levels having fallen dramatically in bars and the city’s casino since the smoke-free law took effect. The level of fine particle air pollution fell by 96 percent in venues that had previously allowed smoking, and it was virtually eliminated in the casino, where there was a 99 percent reduction.
The New Orleans City Council unanimously (7-0) passed the ordinance sponsored by Councilmembers LaToya Cantrell and Susan Guidry on January 22. Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed the measure into law a week later with the law going into effect on April 22.
The need for protection from secondhand smoke in all workplaces and public places has never been clearer. Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer. The U.S. Surgeon General has found that secondhand smoke is a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, serious respiratory illnesses, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The Surgeon General has also found that secondhand smoke is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the United States each year, there is no safe level of exposure, and only smoke-free laws provide effective protection.
Among the other poll findings:
- 89 percent of NOLA voters say it is important that they have a smoke-free environment inside all workplaces – including restaurants, bars and casinos – while just 11 percent find it is not important.
- 88 percent of voters feel that secondhand smoke exposure is a health hazard – and 70 percent label it a serious hazard – with just 11 percent calling it either a minor or no health hazard.
- 80 percent believe the rights of employees and customers to breathe clean air in casinos, restaurants and bars is more important than the right of smokers to smoke and owners to allow smoking inside their establishments (16 percent).
The citywide survey of 500 registered voters was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and released today by the SmokeFree NOLA coalition. The poll was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The air quality study was conducted by nationally recognized indoor air quality researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, using state-of-the-art air pollution monitors to measure the levels of fine particle air pollution in 13 bars and one casino both before and after the smoke-free law took effect.
That study concluded that New Orleans’ smoke-free ordinance is protecting the health of New Orleans workers, entertainers, residents and visitors: “This study demonstrates that employees and patrons in New Orleans bars and casinos are currently not exposed to hazardous levels of air pollution resulting from indoor smoking. New Orleans’s smoke-free air ordinance … is a proven means to significantly reduce exposure to toxic tobacco smoke pollution, which will improve quality of life and health outcomes for New Orleans workers, entertainers, residents and visitors.”