Health advocates say La. lags in enacting no-smoking laws - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Health advocates say La. lags in enacting no-smoking laws

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NEW ORLEANS - It has been 50 years since the Surgeon General announced that cigarettes can cause lung cancer. Since then, warning labels have been put on packs, and states have adopted certain smoke-free laws.

Health advocates say Louisiana is still far behind when it comes to clearing the air.

"Now, with the no smoking in Ireland, this is going to turn into a real Irish bar when there's no smoking!" said Pauline Patterson, owner of Finn McCool's Irish Pub.

As entire nations such as Ireland and China move to ban smoking in indoor public areas, most cities in Louisiana still allow smoking in bars and casinos.

"We feel as if not just New Orleans but the state, which only restricts smoking in restaurants and work places, is behind the rest of the United States," said Tom Carton, the associate director of research and evaluation at Louisiana Public Health Institute.

In 2011, the state Senate rejected a bill that would have banned smoking in bars. Since then, certain businesses have been taking steps on their own to accommodate non-smokers.

"We know that it's eventually going to go into law. Louisiana will eventually catch up with the rest of the nation and we have to prepare ourselves that that is going to happen," said Patterson.

Finn McCools is smoke-free one day a week: Trivia Mondays. It's often their busiest day of the week.

"We actually answered the call, people said 'yes, we would like you to go smoke free.' It has, however, reduced our sales, but we think it's worth it," said Patterson.

"Since we've been open for the last 11, 12 years, we've seen the rate of customers smoking probably go from almost 100 percent down to less than 50 percent," said Stephen Patterson.

"Non-smoking is what is becoming normalized. Fifty years ago, smoking was normalized," said Carton.

Carton said across the country more comprehensive laws have helped lower smoking rates.

It's a phenomenon Pauline and Stephen Patterson say they've already seen in their own bar with the new smoke-free day.

"We still sell cigarettes, but our cigarette sales are down so I think people are generally catching on," said Pauline Patterson.

According to the CDC, smoking causes 440,000 deaths per year, and 49,000 of the deaths are from secondhand smoke exposure.

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