Smoke-free school zones proposed by local legislator - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Smoke-free school zones proposed by local legislator

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - If a state legislator from Algiers has his way, walking, standing or sitting near school campuses with a lit cigarette will soon be against the law.

Senator David Heitmeier, D-Algiers, wants more restrictions on where people can light up tobacco.

"Ultimately what we're trying to do is save the lives of our kids," he said.

Senate Bill 514 would prohibit smoking within 200 feet of the entrances, exits, or outdoor areas of public and private elementary and secondary schools.

"So that our kids from K through 12 are not exposed at all to smoking in that area as they are going to school," Heitmeier told FOX 8 News.

During a hearing before the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday, lawmakers were told that smoking costs the state $1.4 billion a year, and Heitmeier said the smoking rate among young people in Louisiana has reached 21 percent.

"I think it's a good thing, it's much needed, because the kids don't need to see adults smoking cigarettes - and also secondhand smoke, health hazards," said Monisha Antoine, as she stood right down the street from Gentilly Terrace school.

"A lot of people get sick from that secondhand smoke, too," said Reginald Millon, who lives near the school.

Though Millon is an occasional smoker, he supports the proposed new law. He said kids are impressionable, and it doesn't help if they see adults smoking outside the gates of a school.

"You have a lot of grown people, you know, walking, and the youngsters, the younger generation, they see what the older people are doing, so they go do it," said Millon.

Kyle Willard was smoking a cigarette as he walked near the school. When asked if the proposed legislation would infringe on his rights, he said, "To a degree, I believe it's an infringement on my rights, but at the same time I understand them needing to protect the children and protecting our schools, because children are the future and I do believe that secondhand smoke is bad. It's just as bad as smoking is, but as an adult, it's my decision."

Clearly in a lot of neighborhoods homes are well within 200 feet of schools. The proposed law addresses that issue, saying that people would not be prohibited from smoking on their private property.

As for Willard, if the bill becomes law, walking near the neighborhood school would cause him to change his habits.

"I would either have to take a different route or just wait until I get a safe distance away," he said.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee reported favorably on the legislation. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Under the proposed law, a first offense would result in a fine of $25, $50 for a second offense and $100 for a third offense.

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