New Orleans knows how to celebrate. And we are celebrating together as New Orleans becomes the largest city in Louisiana to pass an ordinance that is stronger than the state law currently protecting employees and patrons in restaurants and workplaces from secondhand smoke.

The City Council recently passed the ordinance unanimously to prohibit smoking in bars and casinos. New Orleans made history nationally as the first major city to pass a smoke-free ordinance that includes both e-cigarettes and casinos.

This is huge news. As one of the South’s largest tourist cities, thousands of visitors, patrons and workers will enjoy smoke-free bars and casinos in New Orleans once this ordinance takes effect.

Including casinos in the ordinance was an important goal for the American Lung Association in Louisiana and the Smoke-Free New Orleans coalition. We consistently advocated for this in order to allow all those 5,000 hospitality workers in both bars and casinos the freedom to breathe healthy, smoke-free air.

According to the U.S. surgeon general, nearly 50,000 Americans die each year from secondhand smoke exposure. It is the cause of a host of other diseases, including lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. Yet, according to the Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control” report, state-level progress on proven tobacco-control policies was virtually nonexistent in 2014.

Elected officials in other states and cities are also considering smoke-free air laws. The American Lung Association urges these lawmakers to summon the political will to act quickly and decisively on behalf of the health of their constituents.

Secondhand smoke kills. Comprehensive smoke-free air laws are the best and only effective measure to prevent death and disease caused by secondhand smoke in public places and workplaces, as the U.S. surgeon general has stated.

Let’s celebrate New Orleans’ success and hope that New Orleans becomes an example and not the exception. All Americans deserve to breathe healthy air, and we are committed to bringing laws similar to the New Orleans ordinance to the rest of Louisiana and the region more broadly.

Jennifer Cofer

government relations/health educator