The future is still unclear for Washington’s pipe and cigar smokers, after a new proposal to permit them to smoke at some businesses became main part of a tobacco-related measure Friday night. The amendment to House Bill 2565 would allow cigar smoking at up to 100 cigar bars and 500 tobacco retailers in the state. That means that bars and restaurants, as well as tobacco stores, could apply for an endorsement to permit cigar and pipe smoking at their indoor places. But cigarette smoking would not be allowed. The smoking designed special places would need to be separate, indoors spaces with ventilation systems.
In 2005, Washington voters prohibited smoking cigarettes in public spaces such as bars and restaurants. Joe Arundel, president of the Cigar Association of Washington, declared that the new legislation hasn’t left smokers with many choices.
“It’s for certain caused a lot of sorrow for all people who like to smoke cigars and of course pipes,” Arundel added.
The cigar lounge proposal made progress last year, but hadn’t seen recent action, until last week when lawmakers attached it to a law that seeks to increase taxes for cigs from roll-your-own machines. Cigarettes businesses would be charged $17,500 for the cigar lounge endorsement, and $6,000 for the tobacconist shop version, with the money to be used for regulating enforcement and smoking prevention.
Adversary said that the approximately $1.3 million that would be increased by July 2013 isn’t worth endangering the health of workers at cigar lounges and tobacco stores.
“We do not want this bloody money … that would come in at the cost of workers’ health,” noted Erin Dziedzic, lobbyist for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
Dziedzic also added that the cancer society would rather see tobacco settlement or tobacco tax funds designated for prevention and control. Last year, the Legislature cut all smoking prevention and cessation programs. Meantime, the state spends aproximately $2 billion on tobacco-related health care yearly, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics cited by Dziedzic.
“It is a severe economy still, and these are good jobs,” Dziedzic explained. “Workers are going to be forced to lose their jobs, or have to work in a smoke-filled building.”
Cigar and pipe bars would be required to have employees sign a special form acknowledging that there could be smoke in their workplace. Arundel reported that the new law prevents employers from discriminating against workers who refuse to sign the confession.