Council member seeks to amend East Baton Rouge smoking ban before vote
BATON ROUGE - A member of the East Baton Rouge Metro Council is backing a push to retool an anti-smoking ordinance before it is taken to a vote Wednesday.
The proposal aims to ban smoking in all public places across the parish, including businesses like casinos and bars.
A vote on the ordinance was deferred in June when council members failed to come to a consensus. The vote is now set for Wednesday, Aug. 9, and some council members want to revise the proposed ban in hopes of assuring its passage at the meeting.
Councilman Matt Watson says he has spent months working with parish attorneys, public works officials, fire departments, lobbyists, local bar owners and other council members to have practical discussions on how this ordinance change should be properly written and how it would be enforced.
“These amendments create a more intelligent, streamlined, and more easily enforceable ordinance that takes us to the positive change we all set out to accomplish—eliminating unwanted exposure to secondhand smoke,” Councilman Watson said.
The new version of the proposal mirrors the original in some ways, saying that "any law enforcement agency" may act as the enforcement arm of the ban.
However the revision also seeks to better define what would entail a closed space where smoking would be prohibited.
"Enclosed space means all space between a floor and a ceiling that is bounded on at least two sides by solid walls, exclusive of doorways and windows. A solid wall includes any retractable divider, garage door, or other solid physical barrier whether open or closed. Retractable security doors which are only closed during off business hours are exempt," the amendment stated.
The third amendment states the date of enforcement should be no earlier than June 1, 2018. This amendment aims to provide reasonable time for business owners who wish to construct an unenclosed area to keep their customers who choose to smoke.
Supporters of the smoking ordinance say it is to eliminate nonsmokers’ exposure to secondhand smoke, not to economically punish bars and casinos or put small, locally-owned bars out of business.