The councilman who pushed unsuccessfully to ban smoking in Lafayette bars said he has no plans to revisit the issue any time soon following the council’s 5-4 vote on Tuesday to kill the measure.
“The influence of the people just did not rise to the level that was sufficient enough to hold people accountable and convince them that this was the right thing to do,” said Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux.
Boudreaux said he has heard an “outcry” to re-urge the ban but believes it would be pointless unless one of the councilmen who voted against it is persuaded to switch sides.
“I don’t have any plans to bring it back immediately,” he said. “Unless something changes, you don’t bring it back to get to same results. I think there is a future, no doubt. It will inevitably be here one day.”
Boudreaux had been exploring the possibility of the ban for three years, starting with public forums he sponsored in 2012 to discuss the pros and cons of snuffing out smoking in local bars.
On Tuesday, supporters of the proposed ban, including a strong contingent of local musicians, packed the council auditorium, hoping for a win in Lafayette following the passage of similar bans earlier this year in New Orleans, Sulphur and Hammond.
The ban was backed by the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living, the Downtown Lafayette Restaurant & Bar Association and City-Parish President Joey Durel, who told council members that “it’s just one of those bold decisions that might go against the grain.”
Going into the vote on Tuesday, four councilman had already said they supported the smoking ban: Boudreaux, Jay Castille, Kevin Naquin and Brandon Shelvin.
William Theriot, Andy Naquin and Jared Bellard — generally seen as a conservative bloc on the council — were all on record opposing it.
Keith Patin and Don Bertrand were on the fence, but in the end, they voted down the ban.
It was a difficult decision, Patin said Friday.
Patin said he knows cigarettes are a public health threat, but he believes bar owners have the right to set their own smoking policies.
“If you go to smoky bars, second-hand smoke is going to hurt you in the long run, but everybody has a choice,” he said. “You don’t have to smoke. You don’t have to go to those locations. Cigarettes are horrible. We would be better without them. But cigarettes are legal, and we have a choice.”
Patin said he has received several text messages and e mails from constituents following his “no” vote on Tuesday, split about evenly between those who agree with his stance and those who don’t.
And the councilman said he couldn’t say how he would vote if the issue came before him again.
“Could someone say something at a later date that would make me change my mind? I don’t know,” Patin said.
When Boudreaux first began discussing a possible ban on smoking in bars three years ago, he, too, talked of concerns about the rights of bar owners to decide smoking policies for themselves.
But Boudreaux said at Tuesday’s meeting that he had resolved the issue in his mind.
“Your rights stop where mine begin,” he said. “If it (smoke) all stayed within your body, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”