Moving Ahead

February 4, 2015

Last week I told you about the legislation moving through Nebraska to once again allow smoking at cigar bars and in tobacco shops.  Well that bill has now moved forward. It came out of the state legislature’s general affairs committee by a 7-0 vote with one abstention from a legislator who wanted more legal scrutiny on the bill to be certain it would hold up in court.  Under the bill only cigar and pipe smoking would be allowed, no cigarettes.

The bill differentiates cigars and pipes from cigarettes by saying that cigar lovers often pair cigars with various types of alcohol and that cigar and pipe smokers may take an hour or more to enjoy their smoking “rather than simply satisfying an addiction.”

The bill carries an emergency status so it would go into effect as soon as it passes and is signed.  Look for fairly quick progress on this.

In New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landreau signed the new bill to remove exemptions in the city’s smoking laws…that means no more smoking at casinos or bars.  Conveniently, it goes into effect after Mardi Gras.

In Washington state, it has been ten years since voters approved a smoking ban which prohibits smoking even in cigar stores.  (The only places you can smoke as far as I know are the Indian casinos.)  That could change, but the odds are still highly against it.  Legislation is moving again to try to carve out a niche for cigar bars.  This is the fourth time since the ban went into effect.  This time the bill passed unanimously through the House Commerce and Gaming committee.  The proposal would legalize cigar bars and smoking rooms in tobacco shops up to a total of 115.

Proponents say the state would gain tax money and give users of a legal, controlled substance a place to use what they’re buying. Opponents see an immense public health concern and a betrayal of the voters who passed the smoking ban in 2005.

Right there are always the spoilsports.

“It’s a bad idea,” said Rep. Eileen Cody, D-West Seattle. “They’re basically trying to get around the Clean Indoor Air Act that was supported by a wide margin.”

Cody chairs the House Health Care and Wellness community and helped thwart earlier House bills to allow cigar bars. Cody said she plans to oppose the latest attempt to make Washington the 36th state to legalize cigar bars, possibly by bringing the bill into her committee for review.

“Somebody’s going to be working there, and they’re going to be exposed to it,” Cody said.

The last time the proposal came up it was more ambitious creating 100 cigar bars and 500 smoking rooms.  This one is much more modest calling it at 40 cigar bars and 75 smoking rooms.


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