Alexandria Officials Considering Ban On Smoking In Bars

The city of Alexandria is considering expanding its ban on smoking cigarettes to include all businesses in the city, including bars.

The ordinance, if passed by the Alexandria City Council, would go into effect on Aug. 27.

A public meeting is set for 2 p.m. today in the City Council Chambers, on the first floor of Alexandria City Hall, to discuss the merits of expanding the city's current smoking cigarettes ordinance. Concerned citizens, as well as owners of all businesses who would be affected by the ordinance change, have been invited to attend.

"There will not be a vote taken at this meeting," City Attorney Chuck Johnson said. "It is only to allow all interested folk to discuss and debate the merits of the ordinance, make suggestions for changes, etc."

City officials originally adopted a limited smoking cigarettes ban in February 2006. The state adopted smoke-free guidelines in most public buildings on Jan. 1, 2007; however, smoking cigarettes is still permitted in bars and casinos.

The Smoke-Free Air Ordinance, which also would include a ban on smoking cigarettes in certain outdoor areas under city control as well as in city vehicles, has been proposed by the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living.

Carrie Broussard, policy and advocacy manager for the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living, said the organization has been making a push through its Let's Be Totally Clear campaign to ban smoking cigarettes in all workplaces.

"It's all about people who are unprotected having a voice," she said. "After the restaurants went smoke-free, we kept hearing from bar employees and casino employees who kept saying, '"What about us?'"

Violators of the ordinance would be subject to fines. Smokers could face fines of $25 for a first violation, $50 for a second violation and $100 for each additional violation. Property owners and managers who allow smoking cigarettes in prohibited areas, however, could be subjected to a $100 fine for a first violation, a $250 fine for a second violation within one year and a $500 fine for each additional violation within one year.

Johnson said the city's administration will not take a stand either way on supporting the expanded smoking cigarettes ban.

"The administration takes no position," Johnson said. "I will be there only to gather the information, as a legislative history, to inform the council."

Broussard said city officials, particularly City Council President Roosevelt Johnson, have been champions for a complete ban on smoking cigarettes in Alexandria.

Roosevelt Johnson said Alexandria has been one of the leaders in banning smoking cigarettes throughout the state, and this issue is an important health issue.

"We just want to hear from both sides, from those who are for it and those who have concerns, to see what we want to do to move forward," he said. --» It's a good thing. I feel good about it. Health issues are important for our city."

"Our wish is to see the day where all employees in our state can have smoke-free air," Broussard said.