New Orleans Bans Smoking Pretty Much Everywhere

Bars, casinos, private clubs, parks, construction sites

January 23, 2015

Update 11:15 A.M.: Amendments added to the ordinance slightly changed the final ban to not effect parks or outdoor shopping malls, according to the Times-Picayune. Fines will also begin at $50. A previous version of this story said fines began at $100.


New Orleans passed a far-reaching smoking ban on Thursday that prohibits lighting up in bars, casinos, private clubs—even in the car while waiting in line at a drive-thru.

Claiming there is no "constitutional right" to smoke, the New Orleans City Council unanimously voted to outlaw smoking and electronic cigarettes in indoor and outdoor public places.

The ordinance, which goes into effect in 90 days, applies to bars, casinos, parks, private clubs, any business establishment, recreational areas, sports arenas, theaters, and a host of other places.

"[T]here is no legal or constitutional ‘right to smoke,’" the ordinance said. "Business owners have no legal or constitutional right to expose their employees and customers to the toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke. On the contrary, employers have a common law duty to provide their workers with a workplace that is not unreasonably dangerous."

The ordinance was coauthored by Democratic councilmembers LaToya Cantrell, a former "community organizer," and Susan Guidry.

The smoking ban carries $50 fines for a person who smokes a cigarette, natural or synthetic marijuana, or e-cigarettes in "public places."

Public places include aquariums, laundromats, parking structures, trailer parks, condos, restaurants, shopping malls, outdoor stadiums and amphitheaters, libraries, theaters, lobbies, and more.

The ordinance applies to private clubs, private and semi-private rooms in nursing homes, places of employment, correctional facilities, school buses, and all schools and colleges.

The ordinance goes further to banning smoking in many outdoor areas, including construction sites. Outdoor recreational areas, including amusement parks, athletic fields, beaches, fairgrounds, gardens, golf courses, parks, plazas, skate parks, swimming pools, trails, and zoos, will also be affected.

Smoking will also be banned within 25 feet of parks and bus stops.

Violations are filed as a "public nuisance." A second violation carries a $200 fine, and a third, if committed within the last year, can be as high as $500. Businesses can also have permits suspended if they allow smoking on their premises.

New Orleans residents will also no longer be able to smoke in their cars while waiting to use an ATM.

Smoking is now banned in "all outdoor service lines, including lines in which service is obtained by persons in vehicles, such as service that is provided by bank tellers, parking lot attendants, and toll takers."

"In lines in which service is obtained by persons in vehicles, smoking is prohibited by both pedestrians and persons in vehicles, but only within twenty-five (25) feet of the point of service," the ordinance said.

According to the ordinance, smoking is only allowed in private homes, private residences, and private vehicles, but even they have restrictions if they are used for childcare.

Smoking rooms in hotels will still be allowed, and in retail tobacco stores. However, tobacco retailers will not be allowed to sell products "within 300 feet of any park, church, public library, school, or any childcare facility."

E-cigarettes were included in the ban because their use in public "creates concern and confusion and leads to difficulties in enforcing the smoking prohibitions."

The ordinance had support from groups such as "Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights," but was opposed by the French Quarter Business League and bar owners on Bourbon Street.

One smoker said the ban goes against what New Orleans is all about.

"It's not New York, it's not Seattle, it's a party town," said Elizabeth Stella. "A bar is not a health spa and alcohol is not a spa drink."