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Stogie News: Analysis of Virginia Smoking Ban Legislation

31 Jan 2007

On Friday we mentioned that the Virginia State Senate looked close to passing a state-wide smoking ban. What follows is a closer look at that bill.

Death to Tyrants!The ominously-titled “Virginia Smoke Free Air Act” would repeal the also ominously-titled, but significantly less-restrictive, “Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act.” The Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act only requires restaurants over a certain size to provide a non-smoking section and forbids local governments from passing any ban that is more restrictive.

Currently, the Virginia Smoke Free Air Act has been referred out of the Senate’s Committee on Education and Health. (Curiously these bills never go to a committee on civil liberties or property rights.)

And while the bill purposefully make this clear, it will ban smoking in all bars by defining “bars,” along with almost everything else – including, at times, private clubs – as public places:

“Public place” means any enclosed area to which the public is invited or in which the public is permitted, including but not limited to, banks, bars, educational facilities, healthcare facilities, hotel and motel lobbies, laundromats, public transportation facilities, reception areas, retail food production and marketing establishments, retail services establishments, retail stores, shopping malls, sports arenas, theaters, and waiting rooms. “Public place” shall include a private club when being used for a function to which the general public is invited; however, a private residence is not a “public place” unless being used as a child care, adult day care, or healthcare facility.

In short, with the small exceptions of tobacco shops, tobacco factories, labeled “smoking” hotel rooms, and private residences (with caveats on that listed above), this constitutes a complete statewide ban on smoking. A more cynical person might be thankful that a ban on smoking in multi-unit houses wasn’t included, as is being considered in Belmont, California.

Yet enforcing such a draconian ban isn’t easy, and it would surely be expensive to have police officers go bar to bar checking for cigarette butts. But the anti-smoking zealots have “solved” this by forcing proprietors to enforce the ban. So after telling restaurant and bar proprietors that their establishments are “public places,” the bill then goes on to forcibly enlist them to enforce the law against their own customers:

Any proprietor of any establishment, building, or area that is subject to the smoking restrictions provided in this article who fails to comply with such restrictions shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $200 for the first offense and $500 for any subsequent offense.

Overall, the proposed Virginia smoking ban is just like every other smoking ban: a paternalistic infringement on individual liberty and property rights.

It surely makes a mockery of the motto on the state flag: “Thus Always to Tyrants.”

Patrick S

Tags: cigars

13 Responses to “Stogie News: Analysis of Virginia Smoking Ban Legislation”

  1. Charles Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 7:09 am #

    Living in Arizona, I didn't even know Virginia was considering a ban. In fact, I was under the impression that state was pretty respectful of citizens' rights. What happened?

    Besides, isn't VA where smokers from MD and DC go to partake in "public"?

  2. George E Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 8:04 am #

    Interestingly, I believe the chief patron of the Virginia proposal is J. Brandon Bell II, a staunch southewest Virginia Republican. Goes right along with what I wrote about anti-smokers a while back

  3. Scott Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 10:13 am #

    Of course Virginia's considering a ban. Doing so actually allows politicians – liberal or conservative – to look like they're working, while at the same time avoiding more serious issues. Here in DC, the local pols ought to be more worried about protecting the people of this city from second hand bullets, bad schools, violent crime, traffic, etc.

    What's genuinely Orwellian about the Virginia legislation is the idea that even a private club isn't exempt from the law. I've long been a proponent of the idea that cigar smokers and retailers should join together to open up their own private clubs or bars (such as the Metropolitan Cigar Club in New Jersey or the upstairs cigar lounge at Holt's in Philadelphia). The Virginia law would make even these private lounges impossible to operate. And all the while, Virginia's politicians will still have tobacco's healthy tax revenue floating to Richmond.

    If there's any good news, it's coming from Colorado, where bar owners are openly challenging the Smoke Free laws – and winning ( This win is by no means a trend, but it's a nice moment of common sense amidst the anti-smoking hysteria.

  4. Patrick A Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 10:43 am #


    Thanks for your valuable comments, as well as for bringing that uplifting story from Colorado to our attention.

    I've added that article to our Recommended Reading page, which you can access from the sidebar, or here:

  5. jj Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 1:04 pm #

    I think you are misreading the privatee club provision. Private clubs would be subject to the smoking provision only WHEN THEY ARE PROVIDING A PUBLIC FUNCTION. How about this amendment: "Operators of affected establishments can apply for a waiver to the smoking ban and pay an additional 5% "smoking" sales tax on all revenue. In addition, such establishments will install within 5 years an indoor air filtration system." This would provide enough economic incentive for a high percentage of places to be smoke free and get the smoking nannies off your back.

  6. Displaced New Orlean Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 3:24 pm #

    As one who lives in VA, and is quite familiar with the local political establishment (despite the moniker), while of course I don't like the fact that the Senate may pass, it's still got to get through the house. And as a general rule in VA, the Senate is QUITE a bit more liberal than the house. The Senate's come close on this issue before, but even if they pass it still has to get through the House. For an illustration of the disparity between the Senate and the House, look at some of the gun rights legislation from last year as an example.

    Now that's not to say that Virginians shouldn't protest to their state Senators and Reps (while I have, I don't think my representation in Arlington is very open to our arguments).

  7. tom Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 5:19 pm #

    i have to leave bars often because the smoke becomes too much for my eyes and throat. if they invite the public in, they have to follow a different set of rules- its not paternalism these people are taking away my right to visit public places and enjoy myself. i favor the smoking ban.

  8. Julia Rosien Tuesday, April 10, 2007 at 10:00 am #

    Great post on why you're against smoking bans – thanks for the food for thought. I've invited a few bloggers to my site to weigh in on their thoughts — please join us!

    Julia Rosien

    Nomadik Editor

  9. gwpegasus Tuesday, February 10, 2009 at 3:19 am #

    I'm an occasional cigar smoker and 'at-home' pipe smoker. What does it take to establish a legal "private club" so that I and my friends can enjoy our occasional puff? I'm searching for some free legal advice so that, if practical, some of us can establish our own private puffers club.

    Thanks for any help/insight/suggestions/etc.

  10. Heathcliff Friday, April 24, 2009 at 8:43 pm #

    Private clubs, such as local VFWs and lodges, are exempt. Private clubs are those organizations that:

    * Are used exclusively for club purposes or events;

    * Operate solely for recreational, fraternal, social, patriotic, political, benevolent, or athletic purposes;

    * Have established bylaws, a constitution, or both, to govern its activities; and

    * Conducts the organization’s affairs and management by a board of directors, executive committee, or similar body chosen by the members at an annual meeting.

  11. Heathcliff Friday, April 24, 2009 at 8:45 pm #

    As a VA citizen, resident, and cigar smoker…I personally hate Tim Kaine.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. The Stogie Guys » Blog Archive » Stogie Guys Friday Sampler XXIX and Super Bowl Cigar Giveaway - Friday, February 2, 2007

    […] 3) With all the bad news about smoking bans (including the one that just went into effect in France) we were pleased that one commenter pointed out this article about a successful challenge in Colorado. Now let’s hope others follow suit and challenge these oppressive smoking bans. […]

  2. The Nomadik Fanatiks : Support Smoking Ban – What Do You Think? - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    […] The Stogie Guys say the ban is just another paternalistic infringement on individual liberty and property rights. […]