Decreasing smoking, improving health is at forefront for state

July 7, 2014 8:45 AM

Naomi King Englar

As Tulane University prepares to become a smoke-free campus beginning Aug. 1, younger students in New Orleans already are seeing smoke-free buffers around elementary and secondary schools.


The state’s obesity rate is 35 percent of adults, while the smoking rate is 25 percent of adults. (Photo by Ryan Rivet)

The Louisiana legislature passed a bill this spring creating a 200-foot smoke-free zone around all public and private schools in the state. The law, effective June 9, aims to curb smoking by teachers, students and school staff who would otherwise smoke at the edge of school campuses, which are already required to be smoke-free. People on private property within the 200-foot zone or driving by in a private vehicle are exempt from the law. Local law enforcement — not school personnel — are in charge of issuing citations.

The bill (SB 514) is part of a package of policies authored by state Sen. David Heitmeier, who is on a mission to improve the state’s health with help from the Prevention Research Center (PRC) at Tulane University. Heitmeier also authored the 2013 bill requiring colleges and universities to create smoke-free campus policies.

“As chairman of the Louisiana Senate Health and Welfare Committee, I know we need to make changes statewide if we want to become healthier,” Heitmeier said. “The PRC has provided me with valuable information on best practices, resources and health statistics.”  

The PRC conducted research on various strategies to improve public health, sharing results with state lawmakers and other key stakeholders this spring and summer. 

“Louisiana is among the unhealthiest states in the nation, ranking 48th in the United Health Foundation’s annual America’s Health Rankings,” said Diego Rose, lead faculty member on the project. “Two of the most important indicators for this rank are the state’s obesity rate and smoking rate. We can facilitate the role of individual responsibility in solving these problems if we successfully tailor our school, neighborhood and office environments so that the healthy choice is the easy choice.”

Naomi King Englar is the communications and training coordinator for the Tulane Prevention Research Center and the Maternal and Child Health Leadership Training Program.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000