It is my belief that all Louisianans deserve the right to be protected from secondhand smoke exposure. Sadly, service industry employees and entertainers who work in bars breathe more secondhand smoke than any other type of employee, and have many of the same illnesses as smokers.

The city of Alexandria recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of its smoke-free ordinance. Elected officials and community leaders from around the state, as well as area musicians, came to share in the luncheon celebration and make a show of support for this smoke-free ordinance. The ordinance requires all enclosed places of employment to be smoke-free by removing the exemption in state law for stand-alone bars, gaming facilities, tobacco shops and certain rooms in nursing homes. It also requires smokers to be 25 feet from the entrance to any building when smoking.

With the help of the Louisiana State Health Science Department, the air quality in Baton Rouge bars and casino were tested and measured two years ago. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 87 percent were considered “unhealthy” and 41 percent of the bars had air quality considered “hazardous.”

There should be laws and/or policies in place that would protect all workers from secondhand smoke exposure. Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Surgeon General’s 2010 report titled “How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease.” Additionally, studies have shown that going smoke-free has no negative impact on the bottom-line dollar for bar owners.

The overall goal of any lawmaker or local politician should be healthier air for all! It’s time to move forward in making Baton Rouge, the next greatest city in America, and take a step toward being smoke-free.

Quanda Charles, capitol area manager

The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living

Baton Rouge