May 26, 2020

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

New “state report” on Louisiana released: A lot happened in the Bayou State

Tanner Wakefield and I just released our long-awaited “state report” on tobacco policymaking in Louisiana, Blowing Smoke Out of the Bayou:  The Battle for Tobacco Control in Louisiana.   This report covers Louisiana’s rich history of battling the tobacco industry in the half-century since the 1970s.


This is, by far, the longest state report we have ever published, which reflects the fact that every possible tobacco control policy has been the subject of vigorous debate – and progress – in Louisiana.  In most states, a few issues – smokefree laws, taxes, tort reform, and others – are the central focus.  Louisiana had them all.  This research also benefitted from many internal tobacco industry documents that allowed us to dig into the behind-the-scenes activities of the industry and its allies.


Here is the Executive Summary:


•     Louisiana consistently ranks nearly last for health and smoking in the United States.

•     As of 2018, Louisiana had above average smoking prevalence for adults (20.5%) and youth (13.5% of high school and 3.8% for middle school students) in the United States (44th for adults).

•     The tobacco industry dominated Louisiana tobacco control policymaking during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

•     The tobacco industry hired lobbyists that worked for state business associations, helping it forge strong alliances with the state business community.

•     Third party allies helped the tobacco industry block clean air laws, tobacco taxes and strong youth access laws while enacting industry-favored changes to tort law in the 1980s and 1990s.

•     The tobacco industry, led by Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, and the Tobacco Institute, gave state and local candidates in Louisiana nearly $2.2 million in 2019 dollars ($1.6 million current dollars) from 1983 to 2015.

•     From 1983 to 1999 Democrats received the majority of tobacco industry contributions; Republicans received greater contributions beginning in the 2003 election cycle as they increased their presence in the state legislature.

•     The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that businesses were liable for inherently dangerous products in 1986, prompting legislative efforts at tort reform by the state’s business community and the tobacco industry.

•     In 1988, the state business community and the tobacco industry secured legislation removing liability for harm caused by “inherently dangerous products.”

•     The tobacco industry developed and participated in the state business community’s Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse Coalition in the 1990s to advance its tort reform objectives in Louisiana.

•     The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) created the Louisiana Tobacco Control Program (LTCP) in 1993.

•     DHH initially funded tobacco control activities using only federal grants, receiving no money for tobacco control activities from the state until it allocated $500,000 in Fiscal Year 2001 from proceeds of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA).

•     The tobacco industry helped prevent passage of 61 state clean indoor air bills between 1970 and 1993.

•     Early state clean air bills were not comprehensive 100% smokefree policies, and generally sought to restricted or limited smoking in certain workplaces and locations.  Between 1970 and 1991, all but 1 bill restricting smoking in the arena area of the Superdome failed.

•     Louisiana localities considered 16 ordinances and passed 8 between 1990 and 1992, mostly to limit smoking in local government buildings. Although local legislation in Louisiana was weak, the Tobacco Institute included it in a 22-state smoking restriction preemption plan.

•     In 1992 and 1993 the industry obtained weak statewide smoking accommodation legislation that permitted smoking in most workplaces; the 1993 legislation preempted local smoking restrictions.

•     Louisiana lawmakers only passed cigarette pack tax increases in 1984 and 1990 (5¢ and 4¢, to a total of 20¢) despite rolling budget crises in the 1980s and early 1990s; none of the money went to tobacco control.

•     In 1992, the Tobacco Institute helped repeal a local cigarette tax adopted by the City of New Orleans in 1984.

•     Louisiana was one of five states that still allowed tobacco product sales to minors until 1991, when the Legislature established 18 as the minimum age to purchase tobacco.

•     The federal government’s adoption of the 1992 Synar Amendment led Louisiana lawmakers to adopt youth access laws in 1994 that established a licensing and enforcement system for tobacco sellers with industry-friendly provisions and instituted preemption of local youth access laws in 1994.

•     Louisiana lawmakers passed legislation in 1995 that eliminated the state’s tobacco licensing system and required law enforcement to perform tobacco retail compliance checks, effectively preventing the state from enforcing youth access laws.

•     Poor youth access compliance jeopardized state funding under the Synar Amendment, which led the Legislature to adopt a new licensing and enforcement system for tobacco sellers in 1997 that brought Louisiana from one of the highest violation rates of sales to minors to one of the lowest nationally by 1999.

•     Louisiana incorporated e-cigarettes into youth access laws for tobacco products in 2014.

•     In 1996, Louisiana became the sixth state of over 40 to sue the tobacco industry, part of a series of lawsuits by state attorneys general to recoup Medicaid funds lost treating tobacco-related illnesses that culminated in the 1998 MSA.

•     Louisiana’s involvement caused Liggett and Myers to settle in 1996, providing states access to internal tobacco industry documents and information critical to enabling the MSA.

•     Louisiana Lawmakers placed approximately 70% of their state’s MSA settlement reward into a protected trust for health and education initiatives.

•     Louisiana securitized $2.4 billion of its first 25 years of MSA payments in 2001 for an upfront payment of $1.2 billion.

•     Health and tobacco control advocates secured a 12¢ increase to the cigarette tax in 2002 with dedicated funding for tobacco control that led to the creation of nonprofit tobacco control program The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living (TFL).

•     LTCP and TFL aligned and integrated their programming from 2006-2010, bolstering their capabilities and effectiveness.

•     Tobacco control advocates developed increased capacity and coordination in Louisiana, allowing them to partially repeal preemption of smokefree air laws covering workplaces and restaurants without alcohol licenses in 2003.

•     Passage of local ordinances built support for passage a statewide smokefree law in 2006 that prohibited smoking in most public places and workplaces and completely repealed preemption over local legislation.

•     Louisiana declined to the 49th highest cigarette tax rate nationwide until 2015, when a tax increase raised it to 36th that year; in 2016 it improved to 33rd until declining to 37th by 2020.

•     28 cities and parishes adopted comprehensive, 100% smokefree laws between 2012 and January 2020 to cover exemptions in the 2006 Louisiana Smoke-Free Air Act.

•     Local, state, and national organizations used multilevel campaigns and coalitions to secure comprehensive smoke-free legislation in New Orleans in 2015 and Baton Rouge in 2017.

•     Comprehensive smokefree laws protected only 27.9% of Louisianans as of 2020, much lower than the national average of 61.1%.

•     Tobacco control advocates lacked a powerful presence in Louisiana before the 1990s and 2000s. The Louisiana Tobacco Control Program formed in 1993, the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Louisiana in 2001 and Tobacco Free Living in 2004, gradually bolstering tobacco control presence, capacity, and efforts.

•     Tobacco control advocates established multilevel coalitions at the state and local levels to overturn pro-tobacco industry laws and secure tobacco control legislation to obtain effective statewide smoking restrictions and comprehensive local smoke-free laws despite strong business community opposition.

•     While smoking prevalence has declined in Louisiana because of concerted efforts by health and tobacco control proponents, the spread between Louisiana is growing.

•     Advocates need to continue aggressively pursuing tobacco control policies in order to reduce smoking prevalence at a faster pace and save lives.

You can download and read the full report for free here.  The full citation is Wakefield, T., & Glantz, S. A. (2020). Blowing Smoke Out of the Bayou: The Battle for Tobacco Control in Louisiana. UCSF: Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. Retrieved from

Louisiana is the 30th state we have studied (some several times).  You can find all  the state reports here.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.