29 Jan 2015
The cigar smokers of Nebraska are coming together with national cigar organizations to fix the cigar bar issue in Nebraska. A new bill is moving forward that should address the state law that led a court to eliminate the exemption for cigar bars.
The Nebraska Supreme Court found the exemptions violated the state’s prohibition on special legislation, or laws that are not equally applied in pursuit of the law’s stated goal. The court found that since the law’s goal was to protect employees from secondhand smoke, there was no reason why it shouldn’t also “protect” cigar bar employees.
Now common sense says cigar bar employees are fully aware that they would be working around cigar smoke, plus their job won’t exist very long if a cigar bar can’t let patrons smoke. So it certainly will be a good thing when the Nebraska legislature amends their law so their intention to exempt cigar bars will survive any legal challenges.
Still, I can’t help but feeling that there are lessons to be learned from this episode.
While the result—banning smoking in cigar bars—may have seemed odd, the court wasn’t totally wrong when it said if the only goal of the ban was to protect employees from second hand smoke, then there is no reason for any exemptions. In fact, there’s a level of consistency to a blunt, across-the-board ban.
Once you’ve conceded the premise that government should be protecting workers from making their own decision about whether to work in a place that allows smoke, there isn’t a logical reason for that paternalism to stop when it comes to places whose business model is catering to cigar smokers. If restaurants and bars are included, why not cigar lounges? Why not cigar shops?
It’s important to make a principled stand against smoking bans. After all, they strip adults from making the choice to be around tobacco, which is after all a 100% legal product. If the owner of a furniture store wants to allow smoking, and consumers and workers choose to be there, that should be their right. If that sounds like a dumb idea to you, well that’s what the free market is for: to allow businesses to succeed or fail based on their ability to attract customers.
None of which is to say that exemptions for cigar shops, cigar bars, and other places aren’t important; those exemptions limit the damage done by smoking bans, which can destroy businesses and jobs. But when a smoking ban passes with certain exemptions, remember it isn’t a victory for cigar rights—just slightly less of a defeat.
photo credit: Stogie Guys