A bill in the North Dakota legislature seeking to allow cigar bars and lounges to open in the state has cleared its first major hurdle, passing the House of Representatives by a 48-45 vote on Wednesday.
The bill, HB 1152, creates an exemption to the state’s restrictions on smoking indoors and in places of employment, which would allow cigar bars and lounges to operate legally. To do so, such a business would have to meet a number of criteria:
- Obtain a valid certificate from the tax commissioner.
- Operate a humidor on the premises.
- Be enclosed by solid walls and windows, a ceiling and a solid door.
- Be equipped with a ventilation system by which exhausted air is not recirculated to nonsmoking areas and smoke is not back streamed into nonsmoking areas.
- Permit only the smoking of cigars purchased on the premises.
Additionally, cigar bars would have to generate 10 percent or more of the establishment’s gross income from the sale of cigars, while a cigar lounge would have to generate at least 30 percent of its gross income from the sale of cigars.
The bill initially met pushback during a Business & Labor Committee hearing, when some representatives felt it would open the door to creating exemptions for other smoking establishments. As such, a motion to recommend the bill was defeated. However, when the argument about the uniqueness of cigar lounges was made by supportive representatives, the committee revisited the matter and decided to advance the bill to the House floor without a recommendation.
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.