Another legislative setback has hit the cigar smoking community in Washington state, as a bill-turned-amendment that would have allowed smoking in cigar stores and lounges was chopped and left on the House floor in the wee hours of a special legislative session Wednesday morning.
What started as House Bill 1683 in January 2011 became morphed into an amendment to House Bill 2565, legislation that would have provided for the operation of roll your own cigarette machines at retail establishments. Through ‘parliamentary maneuvers,’ a term used by Joe Arundel, owner of Rain City Cigar in Seattle and president of the Cigar Association of Washington, the amendment was stripped around 2 am Wednesday morning and will not be brought back until January 2013 at the earliest.
“We will be back, most likely next session,” Arundel said. “It would be smart for the other side to pay attention because we’ll be back and better prepared,” he added.
The provision would have created paid licenses to allow smoking in retail tobacco shops and cigar bars or lounges. An annual fee of $6,000 for a store and $17,500 for a cigar bar or lounge would have netted the state between $1.5 and $2 million, which was to be earmarked for the revival of the state’s Quit Line. The line had been cut due to budget shortfalls and left Washington as one of a handful of states without a program to help smokers quit.
The cigar-driven amendment to HB 2565 caused headache for Gov. Christine Gregoire, who did not want to be seen as allowing indoor smoking, something she has been an ardent opponent of since taking office in 2005.
Opponents of the amendment called the provision “blood money,” as they saw it as being pressured to put workers in cigar bars at risk in exchange for the Quit Line’s revival.
“We were close, but indeed, no cigar,” said Arundel, citing that the bill has gained traction in the Legislature since being introduced over a year ago, including passing in the state Senate.