Ordinance is an important first step

Published 4:21 am Saturday, December 31, 2016

The passing of the city’s recent smoke-free ordinance was a proactive step taken in an attempt to start to improve public health and possibly a workforce initiative in the city of Bogalusa. The ordinance is an extension of Louisiana’s Smoke Free Air Act 815, adopted in January 2007, which at this time includes a segment of our hospitality businesses (bars) that was not under state law to provide smoke-free work environments in the workplace.

The bottom line is that this ordinance has nothing to do with the purchase of alcohol and tobacco. It addresses second-hand smoke in our bars. Enforcement has not taken place to date, until proper authorities deem so.

I’d like to thank our council for their strong support and for unanimously voting for the ordinance. I especially appreciate newly appointed councilman Scott Ard for his motion to second. I express my thanks to the support of Mayor Wendy Perrette and Council President Tamira Smith for signing this law, the Washington Parish Youth Coalition DEFY Youth Group, Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco Free Living representatives, the American Cancer Society, and the Bogalusa citizens who showed such strong support for this initiative.

As background, an invitation was extended to Bogalusa bar owners for a Dec. 14 education session on the proposed smoke-free ordinance. During the meeting, there were representatives from two local full-service bars and one drive-thru bar, Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco Free Living representatives, and an American Cancer Society representative.

A discussion on the economic impact (revenue) of the ordinance was of great concern, in which it was suggested that perhaps the ordinance should be tabled, with consideration of the business revenue and their patrons ranging from middle age to college students. In addition, a discussion was on several other issues contributing to the decline of public health in Bogalusa (drugs, the mill, etc.). Finally, it was also expressed by one of the bar owners that “you are talking to the wrong people.”

It was discussed that a public hearing would be conducted during the next city council meeting. (This had been announced in The Daily News immediately following the Dec. 6 Bogalusa City Council meeting, that a public hearing would be held Dec. 20 on this ordinance, as well as all ordinances on the agenda).

Most definitely, this subject matter warranted the opinions and views of groups and citizens of our local community. In that respect, during the Dec. 20 council meeting, views were heard from Washington Parish Youth group DEFY, ADAPT, Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco Free Living, and Bogalusa citizens during the public hearing on the proposed ordinance. There was a motion to table, due to one council member not being present. However, it was repealed and a motion was made to accept the ordinance as read with a condition that there will be a six-month transition period to allow acclamation for our bar owners, their patrons, and the community. This resulted in a possible win-win situation for all involved, and the votes were unanimous.

Education for bars will be a joint effort with the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco Free Living and the American Cancer Society, which is a very valid step. Suggestions during the Dec. 14 meeting included an aggressive smoke-free environment advertising campaign on radio and newspaper media, as well as smoke-free promotion nights, to include some nights that may feature bands that advocate a smoke-free environment. This promotion will demonstrate the importance of a smoke-free environment, as well as allow the bar owner to experience that revenue may still be generated in a smoke-free environment in bars. Bogalusa will be following nine other cities across the state in implementing this initiative.

Passive smoking research has generated evidence that second-hand smoke causes the same problems as direct smoking (in such places as our bars).

Be blessed, and I extend to you and your family a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Feliz Navidad, Blessed Kwanzaa and Happy New Year. Respectfully,

Gloria Kates

Bogalusa City Council, District A