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Written by Puff Staff

Monday, 14 February 2011

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cignews2.14.11 It is time for another edition of cigar news, and today we have three topics to cover. First, we will look at some possible exemptions coming to the state of Washington's smoking ban. Second, we will discuss some more bad news for smokers in the New York City area. Finally, we will touch on a popular event for cigar lovers: the Big Smoke.

The state of Washington's smoking ban could see some changes

Cigar fans in Washington state could have some good news soon, as two proposed bills are being pushed that would allow smoking in cigar lounges and tobacco shops. According to the Seattle Times, the bills proposed by the House and Senate would finally add some exemptions to Washington's statewide smoking ban.

The House bill, HB 1683, and the Senate bill, SB 5542, have voting sessions scheduled for February 15th and 17th, respectively. Both would effectively make some cigar lounges and tobacco shops into smoke-friendly zones for customers. They would allow lounge and shop owners to set up designated smoking areas where cigars and pipe tobacco could be enjoyed, as long as they are separate from designated non-smoking areas. Cigarettes would be prohibited.

While the news of the possible exemptions is positive, lounge and shop owners will have to pay for such privileges if the bills are accepted. A cigar lounge or tobacco shop owner would have to apply for a state endorsement to allow smoking, and both carry heavy price tags. An endorsement for a cigar lounge would cost $15,000, while one for a tobacco shop would cost $5,000. The endorsements would only last one year, meaning owners would have to pay full price once again to renew them. In addition, the state would limit the number of endorsements to 100 cigar lounges and 500 tobacco shops.

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Proponents of the bills, which include the Cigar Association of Washington, claim that they will help generate revenue for the state, as well as give smokers the opportunity to enjoy their hobbies in select settings. HB 163 would allocate 95 percent of the generated revenue to a scholarship program for foster children, while SB 5542 would use 95 percent of the revenue for health care. Both would use the remaining 5 percent to cover administrative costs.

The bills do have some support from Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, and Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, among others, but there is also plenty of opposition. Usual tobacco industry opponents, such as the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, are against the proposed bills, as is Mary Selecky, Washington's Secretary of Health. Although the bills would create very limited and private areas for smoking, opponents believe that their passing would negatively affect the health of cigar lounge and tobacco shop employees. According to Senator Delvin, however, employees of such businesses would be required to sign waivers acknowledging the possible presence of smoke. Lounges or shops that endorse smoking would also have to install exhaust and ventilation systems to help improve air quality.

Washington's statewide ban on smoking in public buildings and places of employment has been in place since 2005. If HB 163 and SB 5542 are accepted, it will be a minor victory for the cigar and tobacco industry, as it seems as if such locations should be able to permit smoking in the first place.






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