The Health and Welfare committee voted 8-4 Wednesday May 26th to involuntarily defer Senate Bill 348, better known as the Louisiana Smoke Free Air Act. The committee in the past has been a place where bills to restrict behavior in private businesses go to die. This most recent move likely strikes down the bill for this year’s legislative session.
Senate Bill 348 was largely undermined by casino and alcohol lobbyists who claimed that the state and local governments would lose significant revenues from alcohol sales due to a slowdown in patronage at bars and casinos. Furthermore, they also argued that it would cause a rash of layoffs in the service industry. Finally, they argued that it should be the bar or casino’s decision of whether to ban smoking indoors. They claimed that several have chosen to do so and have been successful but that it should still be the businesses’ choice.
State Senator Rob Marionneaux, D- Grosse Tate, the bill’s sponsor, argued against the financial disputes brought forth by the lobbyists. He was distressed by the lack of health statistics brought forth in the committee meeting.
In conclusion, Marionneaux stated: “If the state of North Carolina, which relies in large part on tobacco, can pass a smoking ban in bars, for Christ’s sake we can do it here in Louisiana.”