Q&A with Raegan Carter of Smoke-Free East Baton Rouge

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Baton Rouge’s legendary blues musicians keep us dancing and tapping our toes at local blues joints and bars almost every night of the week.

But they also put their own health at risk with each performance.

That’s why the Baton Rouge Blues Festival is excited to have Smoke-Free East Baton Rouge as a presenting partner for the 2018 festival.

And what better time than now? Smoke-Free East Baton Rouge successfully pushed through a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance to make all workplaces in the parish—including bars and casinos—completely smoke-free by June 1.

That means our talented blues musicians, like Smoke-Free partners Quiana Lynell, Kenny Neal, David Jones, Steve Riley, Marcia Ball and others, will soon be able to breathe clean air while they make their living.

We talked with Smoke-Free spokesperson Raegan Carter about their work and their partnership with the Blues Festival this year.

 Kenny Neal

Kenny Neal

Raegan, can you tell us a little bit about the organization?

We work with a number of local partners, local hospitals, local public health organizations and stakeholders within the community who recognize the harmful effects of secondhand smoke and want to make sure that there's healthier air for all. That’s one of our campaign initiatives that goes along with our smoke-free efforts, and it’s basically around making sure every citizen in Baton Rouge has healthier air and clean air.

What’s a big project that Smoke-Free East Baton Rouge has been working on?

The efforts here in Baton Rouge have been around passing the comprehensive smoke-free ordinance in August 2017. It goes into effect June 1 of this year, and it requires all bars and casinos in Baton Rouge to be smoke free.

What that means is that inside those facilities there’s no smoking allowed. We have to really speak a lot about clarifying what that means: A lot of people refer to our smoke-free policy as a smoking ban. It’s not a ban on smoking—it’s about prohibiting smoking inside bars and casinos so that patrons and staff and our musicians are not exposed to secondhand smoke.

That must have been a huge win for the organization.

It’s a huge win, and we recognize that community education is a huge part of this and that’s a part of our efforts while we’re gearing up for the implementation on June 1.

So what are those next steps toward implementing the ordinance?

A part of that education is just speaking to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, how it is related to cancer, how it is related to heart disease and other preventable diseases.

And we have our bar and casino workers that are exposed at work every day. We have our musicians who we rely on for entertainment in Baton Rouge that are exposed to secondhand smoke.

 Quiana Lynell

Quiana Lynell

We’re kicking off a lot of that work right now. We’ve been doing some planning since the ordinance passed with our ordinance sponsors, with our national, state and local partners. We’re moving into that education phase where we will be educating local bar owners around what the ordinance exactly says, what it requires and what those smoking parameters are.

Smoke-Free East Baton Rouge has been a part of the Baton Rouge Blues Festival for a number of years. Why is this event so important for the organization?

You’re right, it’s not the first year we’ve participated with the Blues Festival. But it’s our first year being one of the presenting sponsors, and we’re really excited about that.

 David Jones

David Jones

One of our major focuses is around protecting musicians and entertainers. We have found that the local entertainment industry is one of our No. 1 supporters because they are so frequently exposed to secondhand smoke.

To partner with the Blues Festival—and it’s such a huge festival for the Baton Rouge area—in the middle of our Baton Rouge ordinance implementation, makes this certainly a great partnership.

Where can people find Smoke-Free East Baton Rouge at the festival?

We will have a street team at the festival passing out information about our efforts and about our work. So attendees will be able to find the street team to get more information. And they’ll be able to see me in a Smoke-Free East Baton Rouge T-shirt!

What are you excited about for this year’s festival?

I love music. I love the festival. So my favorite thing is to actually be able to combine my public health work that I’m passionate about with music at the Blues Festival. So I’m really excited.

Find out more information about Smoke-Free East Baton Rouge at smokefreeebr.org. Find them on Facebook here.

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