- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 22, 2015

HAMMOND, La. (AP) - The Hammond City Council has voted 4-1 to ban smoking in bars and bingo halls.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1OFlHfn) the law, which goes into effect in 90 days, adds those hospitality businesses previously excluded under state law to the list of employers that must provide smoke-free work environments.

Councilman Lemar Marshall, who sponsored the ordinance, said he sees it as a workforce initiative and public health issue.

“People have the right to work in an environment free of toxic air, regardless of their occupation,” Marshall said.

Councilman Jason Hood, the lone no vote among the five-member council, said after Tuesday night’s meeting he doesn’t believe it’s the government’s place to tell business owners how to run their business. Any bar owner concerned about providing a smoke-free environment for employees or patrons could have done so voluntarily, Hood said, echoing the sentiments of several business owners who spoke against the new law.

Existing city ordinances already prohibit smoking in public parks, including the city’s skate park, as well as public buildings and vehicles. And the Louisiana Smoke-Free Air Act, which went into effect in 2007, bans smoking in most public places and workplaces, including restaurants.

The new ordinance, which was modeled on the New Orleans law that went into effect at midnight Wednesday, bans smoking and “vaping” - using electronic smoking devices like e-cigarettes which include nicotine - in bars, bingo halls and hotels as well.

Alexandria became the first city to expand the scope of the state’s smoke-free law in 2011. Seven other cities across the state followed before Hammond.

Baton Rouge and Lafayette officials have discussed banning smoking in bars as well, although neither city has taken official action on the issue to-date.

Under Hammond’s new law, business owners will bear much of the burden in enforcement, although the police will be empowered to issue citations and fines for violations, Mayor Pete Panepinto said.

Businesses must put up “No smoking or vaping” signs, and owners and managers face fines of $100 per violation per day, according to the ordinance. Individuals who smoke in prohibited areas could face a $50 fine per violation.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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