Alexandria, Louisiana  August 9, 2011 – The crossroads of Louisiana may well be at a crossroads of its own when it comes to recognizing the rights of its citizens and local businesses.

Alexandria sits in the geographic center of the state of Louisiana.  City leaders passed a smoking ban in restaurants one year before the state did in 2007. Now some city officials are considering a total ban, a move that would eliminate the exemption of Alexandria’s bars and gaming establishments from the statewide ban.

“Statewide, the only places you cannot smoke are restaurants. For several years now, a small group of prohibitionists have consistently failed in their efforts to expand the state’s smoking ban to include bars.  Although we are grateful that cigar shops and cigar bars are exempt from the state ban, the Alexandria proposal is simply a local attempt to get around the state’s defiant rejection of a more restrictive smoking ban,” said Chris McCalla, legislative director for the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association.

McCalla said that legislated smoking bans are an affront to the rights of citizens and businesses alike.

“We fully support the right of individual business owners to choose to make their establishments smoke free or not. However, when the government steps in and tells them how to run their businesses, it has gone too far. That’s what legislated smoking bans do,” he said.

The IPCPR is an international association of retailers and manufacturers of premium cigars, pipes, tobaccos and related accoutrements with dozens of members throughout the state of Louisiana.

“Extending the smoking  ban in this Central Louisiana city could have a negative economic impact throughout the state where we have dozens of members - small businesses that employ local workers and pay local salaries,  and local, state and federal taxes. Why, in these perilous economic times, would any legislator – local, state or federal – take up a virtually meaningless yet job-killing issue like extended smoking bans?” McCalla asked.

McCalla also challenged claims being made by prohibitionists who seek support for their position.

“They are making health-related claims that are outrageous and indefensible. They are quoted in the local media as saying lives are being lost because of the limited smoking ban. This is a ridiculous claim that needs to be challenged.  They can’t substantiate it, because it’s not true. They say a compromise should be reached on the subject.  Well, when Americans start compromising their rights and freedoms, they are embarking on a slippery slope toward lost freedoms of all kinds,” asserted McCalla.

McCalla urged Alexandria residents to tell their city council representatives that an expanded smoking ban is not needed, not necessary and unwanted in this Rapide Parish city.

By Tony Tortorici