A Nebraska judge recently ruled in favor of the state's smoking ban, paving the way for the possibility that cigar bars could lose their smoking exemption status in the near future.
Last week, Lancaster County District Judge Jodi Nelson upheld the constitutionality of the state's smoking ban, passed in 2008, after Big John's Billiards, a pool hall located in Omaha, sued the state. Big John's claimed the smoking ban illegally infringed on its rights as a private business and impaired it from generating revenue. According to co-owner Bill Prout, the smoking ban cut his revenues by almost a third, and for a period of three months last winter, Big John's flouted the ban and permitted smoking. Prout claimed business increased by 20 percent at that time.
Nelson, however, disagreed with the lawsuit, ruling that the state smoking ban "is an entirely permissible, legitimate exercise of the state's sovereign power."
Now, state Attorney General Jon Bruning plans to file an appeal to remove the smoking exemptions in the state ban that grants cigar bars, motels and other businesses the right to allow legal smoking. It will actually be the second appeal that seeks to remove the smoking exemptions. The Nebraska Supreme Court declined to rule on the first one, filed in 2011, until the Big John's lawsuit was decided.
Should the exemptions be struck down, lawmakers would have to revisit the smoking exemption issue.