(WVUE) - Bars and casinos across the state could soon be smoke free. That is, if the Legislature passes a House bill. Proponents say it would protect patrons and workers from secondhand smoke, but those opposed say it could hurt business.
Days from now, HB 881 will head to the Health and Welfare Committee for consideration. The bill would prohibit smoking and vaping in all bars, casinos and bingo halls across the state of Louisiana.
"Considering 80 percent of the population of Louisiana doesn't smoke, it just makes sense to have these types of policies that are good for health, good for people and good for business," said Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living Director Tonia Moore.
She says Louisiana ranks 49th for health, in part due to smoking. Moore says HB 881 would help to reduce tobacco use and protect workers.
"If a person is on their job for eight hours to 12-hour shifts, actually 30 minutes of breathing in secondhand smoke is just like smoking a pack of cigarettes a day," said Moore. "Workers should not have to choose between their health and a paycheck."
Willie Mackie is one of those workers.
"Every night you get undressed outside your door and leave the clothes outside your door and go in. Every night," Mackie said.
Mackie manages The Page in the French Quarter. He says since the smoking ban in New Orleans three years ago, he's seen more energy among his employees. Not only that, but Mackie credits it with a boost in business.
"My business immediately increased 20 to 25 percent in the first year. The second year, we saw another five percent increase on top of that 20 to 25 percent," explained Mackie.
Yet, some Jefferson Parish bar owners aren't so sure.
Reporter: "Do you think it would hurt your business?"
Pat's Pub owner Patrick Murray: "Maybe. Probably, yeah. With video poker and everything. A lot of gamblers smoke."
Murray believes the business owner should have a say.
"I think it should be the establishment's decision," Murray said.
Some smokers we spoke to say hospitality workers take the risk of secondhand smoke when they take the job, insisting bars should continue offering the option to smoke.
"It's called freedom," said bar patron Bob Clarke.
The bill goes before committee Thursday.
Already, 14 cities in the state have smoke-free policies.