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Working within Tobacco Laws

It’s surprising to some that Louisiana has such strict laws on smoking. Since 2007, when we enacted the 100% Smoke Free Air Act, making it illegal to smoke in workplaces in Louisiana, the laws have continued to progress. One example is a notice put out by the Sulfur Police Department, talking to school children to remind them about current laws. The police wanted to get the word out that any adult caught smoking in a car where there are passengers under 13-years-old will face a fine of $150 dollars.

In this environment, smokers have to walk a fine line to service their addiction. For example, a Shreveport businessman, Aaron Tatum, was informed his tobacco store, which sold tobacco and then allowed customers to roll their own cigarettes, was now considered a manufacturer. New legislation had recast his business and he would now be subject to additional regulations and taxes under the new definitions.

Instead of closing up shop, Tatum downsized and separated out the rolling from the tobacco sales. By letting someone else take over the cigarette machines, Tatum could still sell tobacco. However, customers would now have to go next door and pay a membership fee to a private, non-profit club that allowed members to use the rolling machines. Since the club is non-profit, it isn’t subject to the same rules that cost Tatum part of his business.

And this scenario is being played out all over the nation in one form or another. Although some smokers are able to quit or switch to non-smoking tobacco products, others find creative ways to fight the rising costs and inconvenience that come with tobacco addiction.

As tobacco use moves closer to how we treat other addictive substances, there has also been a rise in smuggling and counterfeiting of cigarettes. Somewhere a balance will be struck, keeping tobacco legal enough so that laws, fines and taxes have a positive impact, but not so accepted that new smokers will be attracted to the habit. The trick will be keeping tobacco out of the illegal side of the ledger, where laws have no reach.

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