Cigar smokers in Washington state hoping to light up in their favorite store or a dedicated lounge will have to wait for at least another year, as a piece of legislation has effectively died at the hands of a familiar foe.
H.B. 1919 was introduced by 15 legislators who co-sponsored the bill, and sought to create a path for cigar lounges to become licensed to allow smoking indoors. Currently, smoking is not only prohibited with a cigar store, it is also prohibited within 25 feet of a doorway, window or ventilation system to a building, which forces smokers outside or to lounges on tribal reservations.
After the bill passed the House Business & Financial Services Committee on Feb. 14, it was referred to the House Health Care & Wellness Committee and its chairwoman, Rep. Eileen Cody, D-34. Cody is a longtime nurse and vehement opponent to any legislation seen as being in support of tobacco, so much so that she refused to hear the bill, let alone call for a vote, in either the regular session of the legislature or any of its three extra sessions.
Cigar lounges and bars would have to meet a fairly strict set of requirements regarding air turnover, employee regulations and liquor licensing, but the rules were crafted with the contribution of the Cigar Association of Washington, which felt that they were more than reasonable for cigar stores to comply with.
Additionally, the total number of cigar store licenses would be capped at 75 for the entire state, while cigar lounges would be capped at 40.
This was the fourth time that a bill of this nature has been introduced into the legislature, with previous attempts all dying in committee hearings. However, the bill will be back next session according to Joe Arundel, president of the Cigar Association of Washington and owner of Rain City Cigars in Seattle.