New Jersey Assembly Bill 228, which would allow the establishment of new cigar lounges subject to the approval of local municipalities, passed the Assembly by a vote of 67-5-5 on Monday and now heads to the state Senate.
The bill, which was introduced by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15) and has since garnered 13 additional sponsors, would exempt additional businesses that operate as cigar bars or cigar lounges from the provisions of the “New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act,” permitting a new cigar bar or cigar lounge to be opened and registered with the local board of health in the municipality in which the bar or lounge is located, as long as the bar or lounge files an application with the local board of health stating that it intends to generate 15 percent or more of its total annual gross income from the on-site sale of tobacco products and the rental of on-site humidors, not including any sales from vending machines, and is registered with the local board of health.
Gusciora told The Trentonian that “Cigar smokers are a devoted and nuanced group of aficionados who gather and socialize in an environment that would be their own; this bill creates a new economic engine for entrepreneurs who want to cater to these aficionados by allowing new cigar lounges to open in a downtown environment.”
Should the bill pass the Senate and be signed into law by Governor Chris Christie, it would also come with strict guidelines, including the prohibition of selling food or alcohol, the requirement for a separate and direct entrance and have an exhaust system that is regularly maintained and subject to annual inspection.
Senator Donald Norcross (D-5) has sponsored Senate Bill 1863, which was transferred to the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee on June 16.