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News Summary

Washington may legalize tobacco smoking rooms

Publication Date: 2015-02-01
  • Publication:Yakima Herald-Republic

...For the fourth time since the smoking ban took effect, Washington is seeing a movement to give Shaw and fellow cigar lovers state-regulated places to smoke. A bill passed unanimously Thursday by the House Commerce and Gaming Committee would legalize cigar bars and smoking rooms in tobacco shops, allowing 115 new venues to smoke pipes and cigars.

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.

"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.

Nebraska also has a cigar bar bill before its state legislature this year. Several other states have no laws prohibiting such places, said Craig Williamson, president of the Cigar Association of America.

"We've been trying for the last few years to get cigar lounges back," Williamson said.

His Washington, D.C.-based industry group has spent more than $200,000 lobbying in Olympia in the last three years, state records show.

Periodic attempts to carve a cigar lounge niche into the state smoking ban have come and gone without leaving much of a mark...