At A Glance
“New Orleans is to smoking as rice is to beans,” stated James Varney of the city’s Times Picayune newspaper. For workers and visitors, this means secondhand smoke exposure. Partners including the Louisiana Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (LCCCP) and the Geographic Health Equity Alliance (GHEA) provided stakeholders information and data on the health impact of smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke, and related health disparities. Thanks to a community-wide effort, bars, casinos, other indoor worksites and public spaces are smoke-free.
Public Health Challenge
Louisiana has the fifth highest cigarette smoking rate among all states in the U.S. It is second only to Nevada in the percentage of workers who work in workplaces that are not smoke-free. There are barriers that make tobacco prevention and control difficult in New Orleans, including widespread access to inexpensive tobacco and high levels of poverty. Further, the issues that stem from high tobacco use such as frequent exposure to secondhand smoke, increased risks of developing diseases like cancer, and little to no access to health care services like cancer screening also make cancer prevention and control difficult and can complicate efforts to reach and educate the city’s population. The partnership heard from musicians whose livelihoods were threatened by damage to their vocal chords and lungs from secondhand smoke in musical venues, as well as a blackjack dealer with lung cancer who had never smoked a day in his life.
LCCCP contributed to raising awareness about the concerns of the city’s bar and casino employees and tourists by speaking with them and sharing their stories, as well as giving stakeholders data on the harmful health effects of smoking and secondhand smoke on New Orleans culture and livelihood. GHEA collected information and stories from public health professionals and even—in a nod to the fun-loving atmosphere of the city—documented the “Smoke-Free NOLA” parade through the city streets in order to promote awareness of the negative impact of secondhand smoke exposure on the health of the community and its visitors. The informational campaign made people in the city sit up and take notice about the issue of secondhand smoke exposure.