Smoking in Pennsylvania’s cigar stores and cigar bars is likely to remain legal for the time being.
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Committee on Health voted H.B. 1657 out of committee. When introduced, the bill’s original text would have removed 11 out of the 12 existing exemptions in the 2008 Clean Indoor Air Act. The lone surviving exemption was the one that allowed people to smoke inside of private homes.
However, a series of amendments were introduced and the revised text will keep a number of other exemptions, including smoking in:
- Private Homes
- Tobacco Shops
- Workplaces of tobacco manufacturers, importers or wholesalers. This includes tobacco accessories like lighters.
- Cigar Bars
The bill extends the definition of cigar bar to also include smoking lounges with private clubs that have exhaust, fresh air exchange and negative air pressure. This is an addition to the existing language that would include cigar bars that generate at least 15 percent of their revenue from the sale of tobacco, tobacco accessories and the rental of cigar lockers.
However, that change ended up being controversial with Republicans on the House Health Committee. Led by Rep. Kathy Rapp, the minority chair, Republicans wanted the private club definition to drop the language regarding exhaust and ventilation and instead let the private clubs vote on whether to allow smoking. Rapp specifically mentioned that while some private members-only clubs might be able to afford the ventilation, places like VFW halls might not.
Notably, the current language would ban smoking at Pennsylvania casinos. It would also remove an exemption for certain private events, including one that allowed for Cigars International’s Cigarfest to take place. Last year, Cigars International changed its Cigarfest format from one large, two-day event in Lake Harmony, Pa. to smaller events that take place at its stores around the country.
Pennsylvania is one of three states—along with the District of Columbia—that has no added tax for the sale of cigars. Because of this and its location in the northeast, the state is one of the most important when it comes to the premium cigar industry. Some of the industry’s largest retailers—Cigars International, Famous Smoke Shop, Holt’s, Atlantic Cigar Co., Best Cigar Prices, Cigar Page—are all based in Pennsylvania.