Although, Washington's stringent statewide indoor smoking ban went into effect more than two years ago, cigar shops and bars are still fighting to gain exemption.
The newly formed Cigar Association of Washington hopes to secure 225,000 registered voter signatures by June 30 in order to place the Cigar Bar Relief Act on the November ballot. The initiative would add a little breathing room to the ban, one of the nation's strictest.
The law, which was passed by 63 percent of state voters in November 2005 and enacted that December, outlaws indoor smoking in all public, places including restaurants, bars and even retail tobacconists.
The initiative would exclude cigar bars, cigar stores and private clubs from the ban. A cigar bar would be defined as any establishment that generates $25,000 annually in on-site cigar sales, and where food sales are incidental. This is similar to the language used in other statewide smoking bans around the country to describe exemptions for cigar bars and stores.
"It's important to remember that the initiative does not overturn the existing ban," said Dale Taylor, a tobacconist with Rain City Cigar in Seattle and president of the Cigar Association of Washington. "We are only seeking to give the choice to allow smoking in relatively few locations such as cigar bars, cigar stores and private clubs. These exemptions exist in most other states and we believe it is reasonable to request voters to allow them in Washington as well."
To view the petition, Washington state voters are being directed to the CAW's Web site, www.cigarwa.com.