Baton Rouge, Louisiana (PRWEB) April 30, 2009
Nearly 1,200 bills have been filed for debate during the current legislative session in Louisiana. Of these, the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association is watching three it believes will negatively impact state businesses, including scores of conventions as well as hundreds of small businesses and more than a million residents throughout the state who smoke.
House Bill 75 proposes to raise the current 20 percent excise tax on non-cigarette products to 30 percent. Two other bills seek to tighten the state's existing anti-smoking law. House Bill 844 and Senate Bill 186 are aimed at banning smoking in any restaurant or bar.
"The IPCPR convention is scheduled for August, 2009 in New Orleans. More than 5,000 participants will attend and they will spend a lot of money in restaurants and bars. We won't be doing nearly that much if the proposed bans are enacted, and we are not likely to return in 2010 or beyond if that were the case. And we are just one convention. Scores of other conventions whose organizations are considering New Orleans and other cities in Louisiana will also likely opt to hold their meetings in more tobacco-friendly locales," said Chris McCalla, legislative director of the IPCPR.
McCalla believes jobs will be lost, businesses will be put at risk, and many conventions will stage their events elsewhere if any of these bills are adopted. The IPCPR represents more than 2,000 tobacco retailers and manufacturers of premium, hand-made cigars, most of whom are mom-and-pop small business owners who generate local employment, state and federal sales and other tax revenues.
"Increasing the taxes on a legal product in order to raise more money for state coffers and then banning its use in more locations will result in price increases and lower use of the product which means lower tax revenues for the state. Also, lower sales mean less business which means fewer jobs," according to McCalla.
Legislated smoking bans are unnecessary McCalla believes because business owners should be able to choose whether or not to allow smoking in their establishments while their customers and employees can choose which establishments they wish to patronize or work in.
"Besides, air quality levels in restaurants and bars that allow smoking have been proven absolutely safe by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. At the same time, those levels of secondhand smoke are well within the safe air quality standards established by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration - OSHA - for such establishments," he added.