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July 28, 2014

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Bill that weakens smoking ban gets Senate’s OK

CARSON CITY – A bill to weaken an anti-smoking initiative approved by the voters has been passed by the Senate 14-5.

Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, said Senate Bill 372 does not ignore the will of the voters. Amodei said sometimes initiative petitions approved by the voters need “tune-ups.”

Violations of the measure would carry a fine of up to $2,000, he said.

But Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, said “The people voted to protect themselves from future health harms. We owe it to our constituents to uphold their decision.”

“I believe the proper way to change this law is to have the tavern industry put this back to an initiative process and make their position know; maybe it will be presented better this time,” Lee said.

Tavern owners told the Legislature they lost up to 25 percent of their business after voters in 2006 approved the initiative to curtail smoking.

Opponents said the lost business could be due to a downturn in the economy.

The bill, which goes to the Assembly, provides that taverns or saloons that have a gambling license can permit smoking, but they must keep children out of the business. It would also permit smoking in a convention that is not open to the public, is devoted to the tobacco or convenience store business and involves the display of tobacco products.

A spokesman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority testified earlier to a Senate committee that it lost two conventions because of the smoking prohibition.

The no-smoking law would still be in effect in child care facilities, movie theatres, indoor places of employment, malls and retail establishments, all areas of grocery stores and indoor areas in restaurants.

The measure takes enforcement authority away from local governments and transfers it to the state.

The 2006 initiative petition is now before the Nevada Supreme Court. A district court judge ruled the initiative was legal but not subject to criminal penalties.

Voting against the bill were Lee and Sens. Bernice Mathews of Reno and Shirley Breeden, Valerie Wiener and Joyce Woodhouse, all of Las Vegas.

Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, abstained because a member of the law firm he works for lobbied for the bill. So did Barbara Cegavske. R-Las Vegas, whose husband is in the slot machine business.

The Senate also approved 21-0 Senate Bill 383 to require a business where cigarettes are sold to post a sign in a conspicuous location that smoking during pregnancy is dangerous.

The bill carries a fine of $100 and the signs must be posted before Dec. 31.

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