Senate approves bill to ban smoking in bars and casinos

Sponsors of a bill to ban smoking in bars and casinos say it will level the playing field for restaurants, where the lighting up is already prohibited.BATON ROUGE — The Senate overwhelmingly agreed to legislation this morning that would expand Louisiana’s smoking ban to include bars and casinos.

The 22-10 vote on Senate Bill 186 by Sen. Rob Marionneaux Jr., D-Livonia, came after lawmakers rejected two attempts to weaken the legislation and sets up a showdown on the House floor, where a similar bill awaits a vote.

Marionneaux said the bill is designed to “put everyone on an equal footing.” Some restaurant owners have complained that current law gives bars an unfair competitive advantage.

Senators turned back an attempt by Sen. John Alario, D-Westwego, to exempt casinos from the ban and another amendment by Sen. Nick Gautreaux, D-Abbeville, to let bars allow smoking.

“We live in America. What do people fight for?” Gautreaux said. “They fight for our freedom of choice.”

Marionneaux said that freedom shouldn’t include the right to make people sick from second-hand smoke. “I know the cost of freedom, but I also know the cost of second-hand smoke,” he said.

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