Is it time that Lafayette goes smoke-free?

On April 5, 2017, the Lafayette Parish City Council will introduce a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance to prohibit smoking in all indoor workplaces, including bars, nightclubs, and gaming facilities.

Five of the council’s nine members — Kenneth Boudreaux, Nanette Cook, Bruce Conque, Pat Lewis and Kevin Naquin — are co-sponsors of the bill, meaning it already has the simple majority needed to pass.

Those in favor of the ordinance believe that this would be a major step in the right direction to protect public health in the sixth largest city in Louisiana.

In 2007, all Louisiana workplaces and restaurants became 100% smoke free with the passage of the Louisiana Smoke Free Air Act. The statewide law also fully restored local control, to give local governments like Lafayette Consolidated Government the ability to expand smoke-free protections in their communities for areas not covered by the state law, such as bars and casinos.

A big question when the topic of going smoke-free comes up is: "Why do we need an ordinance when places who want to be smoke-free can, and already do so voluntarily?"

The most obvious answer would be that parishes like Lafayette lead the state with its large numbers of hospitality workers and annual tourism. In addition to that, smoke-free policies are a proven strategy to reduce tobacco use, and a key component of creating change is to lead by example.

When you dig deeper into the numbers, a smoke-free Lafayette makes even more sense.

I say that because as of 2014, Louisiana has the 7th highest death rate from cardiovascular disease in the country, with heart disease and stroke (combined) being the leading cause of death of Louisianans at 30%. Did you know 24.8% of Louisianans are current smokers? Which is more than the average number of current smokers across the United States. It may surprise you to learn that smoking increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by 2 to 4 times, even though smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States.

Beyond the numbers, I can personally say that I've played in venues that were both smoking and non-smoking over the last 18 years and the difference is clear. In a smoke-free establishment I don't have to worry about leaving my gig without my voice and waking up with a headache the next day.

I literally feel terrible from being around the second-hand smoke. Now, I totally understand that it's my choice to be there—but I truly feel for the other employees who may feel the same way that I do, but have to work in smoking establishments multiple nights a week for longer hours.

Also, you don't have to be a DJ or an employee to enjoy a smoke-free establishment. Just ask anyone who hates the smell of smoke in their hair or their clothing after leaving a smoky bar.

Not to mention, as more and more bars have gone to a voluntary no smoking policy, they have actually seen an uptick in business—and that even includes the smokers!

Of course there will be a vote, and my opinion is only an opinion—but no one should have to put their health at risk to earn a paycheck or enjoy a night out in Lafayette. Everyone has the right to breathe clean air and I think it’s time for a #SmokeFreeAcadiana and a #SmokeFreeLaffy for a healthier Louisiana.

I'm curious to hear how you feel about a smoke-free Lafayette. Let me know what you think in the comments below.