Metro Council taking up smoking ban for Baton Rouge bars, casinos but will it to pass? _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- A bar patrons' lighter and cigarettes sit on the bar, Wednesday, January 27, 2016 at Phil Brady's Bar & Grill on Government Street in Baton Rouge, La.

Anthony Gallo remains philosophically opposed to a parish-wide smoking ban in bars and casinos.

However, when his son polled their customers at the Cadillac Cafe, they found that 85 to 90 percent of their social media followers wanted to cut the smoke, so the bar is going smoke-free this summer, albeit on their own terms.

In fact, most people in East Baton Rouge favor a proposed smoking ban set to go before the Metro Council later this month, according to a poll by supporters released Friday.

"It's basically something that crosses party, ideological, racial, gender and age lines," said pollster Glen Bolger.

Support has especially risen among independent voters, though Bolger isn't sure what caused the upswing.

For Randy Hayden, a spokesman for a coalition of ban supporters, it was especially telling to see that even half of smokers were supportive of a ban on lighting up in bars and casinos.

"All we're asking the smoker to do is simply step outside," he said.

"Right now it's a societal courtesy to go outside to smoke."

Not everyone backs the ban, though.

"It's just further government intrusion into public liberties," said Metro Councilman Trae Welch, who said bars owners should be allowed to permit legal behavior on their own premises.

A smoking ban will have a "hugely detrimental impact on our business," said Troy Stremming, vice president of Pinnacle Entertainment, the parent company of L'Auberge Casino. Other casino representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

Ban proponents have based their argument around a concern for bartenders, musicians and other hospitality workers. Those employees, they argue, should not be exposed to the dangers posed by being forced to inhale second-hand smoke.

But the recent poll shows that businesses should also attend to their bottom line. While a smoking ban is generally supported by every demographic group, one is especially interested in seeing cigarettes go out.

Young, college-educated women in particular favor a smoking ban. According to the recent poll, 79 percent of women between the ages of 18 to 44 were behind it, and 69 percent of women with a degree were supportive.

Those slices of the population just don't have a lot of friends who smoke, said Bolger, the pollster.

Gallo, the bar owner, noted the generational gap. Younger patrons are used to taking their cigarettes outside, if they smoke at all.

"Young adults are accustomed to it," he said.

He still doesn't want politicians meddling in his bar, though.

"I'm just sick and tired of the government being up in my business," he remarked.

Nevertheless, while he's spoken against the ban in the past, he said he would not oppose it this time around.

The Metro Council considered a ban last year, and it narrowly failed on a split vote. New council member Matt Watson — who happens to represent Gallo — has signaled his support of the smoking ban this time around, which would tilt the scales in favor of the measure.

Stremming, the L'Auberge executive, said the casino would abide by the council's decision but strenuously defended maintaining the status quo.

Most of the casino is already non-smoking, and in areas where it is allowed, the company has installed air purifying equipment, he said.

"We work very hard to try to provide an environment that is a good environment to work in," he said.

Stremming also noted the employees who have spoken out against the ban, fearful that if business drops off, so will their tips.

The Metro Council is scheduled to vote on the proposal June 28.

Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.