Thursday, October 13, 2011

Alexandria City Smoking Ban

Smokers in Alexandria will have to leave local cigarettes store stores to light up the products they just bought there.

At least 25 feet from the stores to be exact, starting Jan. 1 after the Alexandria City Council passed an ordinance Oct. 4 banning smoking cigarettes in businesses previously exempt from state and local smoking cigarettes bans, including bars and discount cigarette online stores.

And some tobacco users are not happy.

"They think the City Council way overstepped their boundaries," said Vonne Neal, owner of Alexandria's Smoke Shop. "With all the problems the city has, this is what they're focusing on?"

Across the Red River, Bill Bailey, owner of Smokers Paradise in Pineville, has also begun to hear complaints from his customers. Bailey's store might not fall directly under the effects of the new ordinance, but his customers who live or work in Alexandria will.

"If you can't consume the product at the place you buy it, that's the irony of the situation," Bailey said.

The city of Alexandria's new anti-smoking cigarettes ordinance will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012.

Several customers have expressed indignation about the new smoking cigarettes ban in Alexandria, calling it discrimination, Neal said. They feel that they are being "beat on" and treated as second-class citizens because of their choice to use a legal product like tobacco.

"If you fish, how would you feel if somebody told you you can't fish Monday through Friday at all?" Landon Anders of Pineville said. "You can only fish Saturday from 12-2 p.m. That's just stupid. It's your choice to do it."

The new ordinance aims to protect people who do not smoke cigarettes but still breathe in secondhand smoke cigarettes in bars they frequent or where they work, officials said.

One way to ensure people who do not like the idea of breathing secondhand smoke cigarettes can avoid doing so is to "not go" to places where they know people are smoking cigarettes, such as bars and casinos, Neal said.

In regards to employees who do not smoke cigarettes but work in smoke-friendly environments, the decision whether to ban smoking cigarettes for the health of employees should be up to the business owner to decide and not elected officials, Neal said.

"If you don't want to be around smoke cigarettes in a bar or casino, then don't go and don't take a job at one," Wanda Nolan of Alexandria said in a letter to The Town Talk about the smoking cigarettes issue. "That is the choice you make. But at the same time it is my choice to smoke. Next they will be telling us we can't smoke cigarettes in our homes."

As far as smokers themselves, Neal said, they are aware of the risks, but it is their right to choose to smoke cigarettes a legal product.

"There's nothing on the front of our store that says '100 percent healthy,'" Neal said. "It's not Smoke Shop and Health Foods. We know the dangers of it."

Smoking also comes with benefits as well, Neal said, particularly for governmental bodies.

"It is a legal product that generates millions of dollars in the state in tax revenues," Neal said. "It's kind of like: 'What else do we need to do?' Smokers already pay more taxes than anybody anyway."

And after voters approved a constitutional amendment on Oct. 22, smokers will now pay even more.

The amendment, which came from Senate Bill 53, began as a plan to stream money from the state's settlement with the tobacco industry into funding for the state's Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, or TOPS, which provides tuition costs for Louisiana students who qualify.

By the time the bill appeared on the ballot Oct. 22 as an amendment, it also stood to cement the status of a temporary 4-cent tax hike on tobacco products into a permanent tax.

Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed earlier this year a separate bill aiming to make the tax permanent, but the newly re-elected governor did strongly support funding for the state's tuition program.

"Now we're funding kids in school with tobacco products," Bailey said. "That doesn't make a lot of sense to me."

Neal reports some customers have said the Alexandria Police Department also has enough on its plate without having to enforce the new ordinance. They will likely have to go out on "trivial" calls to determine whether a smoker was outside the required 25-foot range based on "he said, she said" statements that will take time to sort out.

"Are you really going to make the senior citizens in a nursing home in the dead of winter go 25 feet away from the door to smoke cigarettes a cigarette?" Neal said.

The ordinance passed on Oct. 4 has sparked some new interest in e-cigarettes, Bailey said. These products produce a water vapor rather than tobacco smoke, allowing smokers to use them in areas where officials have banned traditional cigarettes.

"There's been a ton of renewed interest in that product," Bailey said. "That is directly related to "» the smoking cigarettes ban."

The city of Alexandria's new policy is among a growing list of restrictions on smokers.

For example, Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in Alexandria recently announced that starting July 1, 2012, the hospital will prohibit the use of tobacco products by employees while on their shifts, including when they are on breaks. The hospital also will not allow employees to work if their clothing smells like smoke.



Note of the day: Donskoy Tabak more tips here.

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