Who couldn’t have seen this coming? Well probably most of the cigar industry. In many talks with people about smoking bans and why we should always fight them, often many of the people in the business will say, I won’t be affected….I will get an exemption. When you point out that exemptions may be only temporary things, they often scoff.
In Nebraska they aren’t scoffing anymore. Last Friday the state Supreme Court struck down exemptions to the state smoking law as unconstitutional. Surprise.
In Friday’s ruling, Judge Kenneth Stephan, writing for the majority, said there is no substantial difference in circumstances between cigar bars and other public places or workplaces that justifies treating them differently.
An Omaha pool hall was fighting the ban trying to get the law scrapped. Instead, now it is worse. But the pool hall now says, at least the playing field is leveled. Yeah everyone is gonna be in the basement. I hope the pool hall goes out of business.
According to news reports the court decided the exemptions were contrary to the legislature’s initial intent to ban smoking from the workplace. Nevermind that the legislature changed the law to include those exceptions.
The Supreme Court ruled that only the exemption for hotel guestrooms is constitutional, because the evidence against it doesn't overcome its presumption of constitutionality, Stephan wrote.
That's not the case for tobacco retail outlets and cigar bars, he said.
“Allowing patrons of such shops to smoke simply because it is convenient does not comport with the purpose of the Act, which is to protect the public and employees from the dangers of second-hand smoke,” Stephan wrote.
While most articles concentrate on the state’s 11 cigar bars, it also affects cigar stores.
Jason Hutchison, general manager of Jake’s in Lincoln, is already predicting a 10 percent to 15 percent loss of business. He said he hopes he won’t be forced to lay off employees.
“I don’t think the judges look at the repercussions for things like this,” he said
No they don’t. And do not think that the anti’s feel this is a victory.
For Mark Welsch, president of Gasp Nebraska, the ruling is bittersweet.
“I'm very pleased that the Supreme Court has ruled that you can no longer smoke in cigar bars, in tobacco stores. I'm disappointed that they still allow hotels and motels to be smoky and am most concerned that they allow smoking at in-home day care's and foster home businesses,” said Welsch.
Right….not far enough. You can never compromise with these people and be certain they will use this decision in the future in other states and cities to get rid of the exemptions.
Now let’s take this a step further. The upcoming FDA ruling, many have said, will likely end up in court. They are right. The trouble is they don’t think about what could happen. For example, if mass market cigars are covered by the FDA and premiums are not, don’t you think someone is gonna go to court? I have been told that of course the mass market size will get an exemption after the court challenge. They have wonderful lawyers you see. My point is that any legal challenge can always go against you. Witness Nebraska. Bottom line…be afraid, be very afraid.