Although the parishwide smoking ban has contributed to notable declines in casino revenues, indoor air pollution levels in Baton Rouge bars and casinos have fallen 98.8% since the ordinance went into effect on June 1, according to a recent study.
Celebrating the six-month anniversary of the smoking ban today, the Smoke-Free East Baton Rouge coalition released the results of the study conducted by New York-based Roswell Park Cancer Institute this afternoon.
The institute conducted the first phase of the study in 2016, according to a news release from the coalition. Researchers used air pollution monitors in 11 local bars and three local casinos that allowed smoking at the time and found the average air quality “exceeded the EPA threshold for unhealthy air and two facilities exceeded hazardous levels.”
In July, a month after the smoking ban in bars and casinos took effect, researchers revisited the three casinos and three of the bars to test them again.
The study concluded air pollution levels dropped 98.8%, which is greater than the decline seen in New Orleans—96%—after passing its smoking ban, smoke-free coalition spokesperson Raegan Carter says in a statement.
“We were not surprised by the results but were certainly excited to have confirmation that Baton Rouge area bars and casinos are no longer exposing workers or patrons to hazardous levels of air pollution resulting from indoor smoking,” Carter adds.
Fine-particle air pollution is defined as less than 2.5 microns in diameter, the study reports, and particles of that size are released from burning cigarettes and easily inhaled into the lungs, which can cause health issues such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease.
Mayor Sharon Weston Broome was also at the press conference this afternoon, celebrating the success of the ban and to praise the efforts of the coalition and council members who helped pass the ordinance in 2017.
“We have now joined the list of almost 700 cities nationwide going smoke-free,” Broome says. “That number is growing and we hope that other cities throughout Louisiana will follow our example and will soon come onboard.”
Not everyone, however, is happy about the new ordinance.
Casino industry officials say the smoking ban has played a part in declining revenues at Baton Rouge facilities. Business Report took a look at this issue, as well as other reasons behind the downturn in casino winnings and attendance in an October cover story.