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Cigar Bar Bill Ignites Controversy

Andrew Nagy
Posted: April 8, 2009

Nebraska state senators have advanced a bill, called unconstitutional by a former state Supreme Court justice, that would exempt cigar bars from the smoking ban taking effect on June 1.

The bill, introduced on Monday, seeks to adds cigar bars to the list of exemptions in the smoking ban passed last year, which includes tobacco shops, some hotel rooms and home-based businesses.

Since the bill was first introduced on January 15, senators have been scrutinizing and debating the details of the measure to ensure only bona fide cigar bars would be exempt.

The legislation defines a cigar bar as a business that is granted a special license from the state, which confirms before issuing the license that the establishment receives at least10 percent of its revenue from cigar sales and has a walk-in humidor.

In addition, senators voted to pass an amendment to the bill that would bar cigarette smoking in cigar bars.

The American Cancer Society of Nebraska disagrees with the bill, and so it asked Norman Krivosha, a former state Supreme Court Justice, to give his opinion.

Krivosha, according to JournalStar.com, said an exemption to the ban for cigar bars violates the state constitution because it grants a business a special or exclusive privilege.

Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, R-Omaha, who sponsored the bill, disagreed with Krivosha's opinion and believes exempting cigar bars is as valid as the existing exemption for tobacco shops.

The bill is slated to see final-round debate next week.

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