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.