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Washington Eyes Creating Smoking Licenses

Two separate bills recently introduced by Washington state lawmakers would, if passed, grant cigar enthusiasts the right to once again smoke inside tobacco shops and cigar lounges.

Washington passed a very strict smoking ban in 2005, outlawing indoor smoking in all public buildings, including restaurants, bars and even retail tobacconists.

Both of the introduced measures, Senate Bill 5542 and House Bill 1683, call for the establishment of a special state licensing program whereby businesses would apply to the State Liquor Control Board for endorsement as either a cigar lounge or retail tobacconist. These businesses would receive a license, which could be renewed each year, and in return, patrons could light up within these establishments.

No more than 100 lounges would be licensed as a cigar lounge at $15,000 per year. Up to 500 businesses, each paying a fee of $5,000 per year, could receive a retail tobacco license.

According to the language contained within the bills, 5 percent of fees would be used for administrative costs, while 95 percent of the fees collected by the state would go to government programs. The House version directs that the funds accrued from the program are to go to a scholarship program for foster youth, while the Senate version dictates that the funds are to go towards health care.

The bill was the brainchild of the Cigar Association of Washington, a political organization that represents the interests of tobacco retailers and is comprised of small business owners, employees and customers.

“We took all the arguments the other side has made over the years and addressed them point by point,” said Joe Arundel, president of the CAW.

The House Committee on Business & Financial Services was scheduled to discuss the bill today, but no action was taken. A public hearing in front of the Senate is scheduled for tomorrow.

Chris Castellani Tomball, TX, USA, February 17, 2011 8:40am ET
Highway Robbery. The only way to explain it.
Ken Common February 17, 2011 12:02pm ET
It's about time. But charging lounges $15,000 a year!!! Come on. This is just insane. One more typical Washington State liberal tax on business. No wonder businesses are leaving.
Christian A February 17, 2011 8:41pm ET
If you didn't realize that we pay for our freedom already this spells it out for you. Thanks WA for letting us pay for the privilege.
Emil J Lesner Fletcher, Ohio, USA, February 20, 2011 4:43pm ET
Next on the agenda: WA will outlaw oxygen usage for breathing. Anyone who wants to breath in the state of WA will have to purchase a license to legally breath.
Michael Smith February 21, 2011 9:44am ET
It is insane. Our public leaders (sadly used) pick on those having the least influence. Just think if they wanted to ban drinking or fast foods. Doh! Those lobbies(est) just pay more to elect those protecting their interests. Those that support real freedom should join together and present their legislators with compelling reasons to support their cause.
Thomas Morrison West Point , Nebraska, United States, February 26, 2011 5:25am ET
Honestly I believe this concept is a good solution for states with smoking bans. However $15,000 a year is completely ludicrous, as is the limitation of only 100 in the entire state.
road king March 11, 2011 9:55am ET
$15,000 INSANE, how about 50.00
Ryan Britz Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, March 23, 2011 2:38pm ET
I too agree the concept is good if this will allow us to smoke in cigar shops once again. In my home town (Province), there are strict smoking laws as well - no smoking in public buildings, no smoking in vehicles where children under the age of 16 are present. I am fine with this. BUT, we also have laws against advertising tobacco products to minors. That is, all tobacco products are covered in retail stores and cigar shops (the few that remain) must have the windows at the entrance covered so no minor can see in. Minors are also not allowed in cigar shops. SOOOOO, if minors are not allowed in cigar shops, and they cannot see in, is it really a public building? As far as I can tell, the only people entering into cigar shops SMOKE CIGARS, or at least have some level of tolerance. So why can't we smoke in them???? Still confused, yet still enjoying this great past-time!

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