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Good News

Marvin R. Shanken, Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Saturday Night Live: How it Shapes Our Politics & Culture, September/October 2011

It’s been awhile since we’ve been able to report on good news for cigar smokers. But there’s a bunch out there right now.

First of all, in Nevada, Governor Brian Sandoval signed a bill that went into effect immediately, permitting stand-alone bars that keep people under 21 out to serve food as well as allow smoking. That means that many smoking establishments that had been suffering because they couldn’t serve any food to go along with their alcoholic beverages can start serving food again.

But there’s more. The state of Connecticut passed a 50-cent tax cap on cigars. It means that cigars, while still taxed, won’t be subject to outrageous increases based on taxes in the years ahead. It’s the first state in the Northeast to enact such legislation. New York State’s Senate also passed a $1 tax cap, but the State Assembly failed to pass the bill before it recessed; there’s hope that bill will be passed in January and New York will join its neighbor Connecticut in starting to slow the rise in taxes on cigars.

Out in California, where some of the most restrictive anti-smoking laws were passed back in the 1990s, the state legislature beat down a bill that would have prohibited smoking inside tobacco shops. The bill as passed still expands some restrictions on workplace smoking, but tobacconists and private clubs will be exempted.

In Texas, a drive to impose a statewide smoking ban also faltered in the legislature with two bills, one in the Senate and one in the House, failing to muster enough support to be put to a vote. While both still would have allowed smoking in a variety of cigar and cigar-related businesses, they would have eliminated all smoking in Texas bars and restaurants.

Finally, in Carmel, Indiana, Mayor Jim Brainard first banned smoking on the city’s public golf course in early June, but then reversed his decision after an outcry from his constituents who were upset they could no longer enjoy a smoke while playing. One local golfer observed that the mayor had seen the error of his ways.

While none of these events are momentous, and hardly a sign that the tide against cigars is turning, it is reassuring to see that in some communities and in some states there is an awareness that cigars, and cigar-smoking, are adult pleasures, and government should not be in the business of trying to create de facto Prohibition against smoking. If you know of legislative efforts in your own area that are aimed at further curtailing smoking, now is the time to speak out and stem the tide. Public sentiment may be on your side.

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