Wednesday, June 1, 2011 | 1 p.m.
In a split vote, the Assembly Ways and Means Committee passed legislation that would allow tavern owners to serve food to their smoking customers despite a voter-approved indoor smoking ban.
The lift on the smoking ban would apply to adult-only taverns or adult-only areas inside taverns.
Four Democrats, including committee Chairwoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, voted against the bill that is backed by a coalition of tavern owners and slot route operators.
The coalition has been trying to persuade lawmakers to change the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act since voters passed it in 2006. Its efforts have been mostly unsuccessful.
That ballot measure forced many tavern owners to choose between serving food or allowing smoking, which significantly undercut their business.
“My understanding is this is only allowing food to be served where smoking is allowed and doesn’t broaden (where smoking is allowed),” Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said before voting in favor of the measure. “I think it’s a fair bill.”
Health advocates and those who funded the ballot measure opposed the legislation, saying it was an underhanded attempt to poke holes in the indoor smoking ban.
Sponsors of the legislation amended their original bill several times to ensure it would not apply to typical restaurants or other areas where children are allowed.
The measure would also allow indoor smoking at tobacco conventions.
Assembly Bill 571 now heads to the Assembly floor for a vote.