If passed, a latest amendment would permit pipe and cigar smoking at around 600 venues.
The future becomes brighter for Washington’s cigar aficionados, after a bill to permit cigar smoking in a limited number of venues was introduced as a part of smoking-related regulations last week.
According to the proposed amendment to the House Bill 2565 cigar smoking will be permitted in not more than 100 cigar pubs and 500 tobacco shops across the state, meaning that cigar bars and tobacco retailers would have to apply for a license to permit cigar and pipe smoking in their venues. Cigarette smoking is not affected by the bill, as it is completely banned in public places.
The smoking zones would have to be enclosed, separate areas equipped with ventilation systems.
Washington voters prohibited smoking in enclosed public places, including bars and restaurants in 2005. Joe Arundel, head of Washington Cigar Association complained that the measure left adult smokers almost no options.
“It has surely been a grievous time for cigar and pipe smokers,” Arundel said.
The cigar bill was first introduced last year, but hadn’t seen much discussion recently until two weeks ago when legislators attached it to the proposal that would tax self-rolled cigarettes made with the help of rolling machines.
In order to get a cigar endorsement, business would have to pay $17,500 and tobacco retailers will be charged $6,000, with the generated funds to be spent on funding smoking prevention and cessation campaigns.
Critics state the nearly $1.3 million collected in 12 months isn’t worth putting the health of employees of cigar bars and tobacco stores at risk.
“We don’t need this blood money collected in exchange to people’s health,” said Erin Dziedzic, the American Cancer Society lobbyist.
Dziedzic mentioned the ACS would rather back the bill to use tobacco tax funds to sponsor smoking prevention programs, since all anti-smoking programs were cut by lawmakers last years. At the same time, the State spends nearly $2 billion on treating tobacco-related diseases annually, according to CDCP stats.
“We are going through the economic downturn, and these jobs matter,” Dziedzic added. “Employees will have to choose either to save their job or health.”
Cigar lounges would be obliged to have workers sign an agreement to work in an environment where could be tobacco smoke. Arundel admitted the bills protects workers from discrimination if they refuse to sign the latter agreement. Washington Cigar Association president noted most of potential cigar lounges are large venues and will be capable to send workers to other parts of the businesses if necessary, and that all workers at his own tobacco store in Seattle have been smoking.
The cigar lounge proposal was backed last year by many bars, with owners admitting their patrons are asking to permit smoking cigars, what would lead to more revenues for employees.
The measure, sponsored by Republican Sen. Mark Schoesler has not passed the Senate Ways and Means committee yet.