BISMARCK – The North Dakota State Senate passed a bill Wednesday to allow cigar lounges in private businesses.
House Bill 1229, after Senate amendments, would allow private businesses to operate as a cigar lounge with certain regulations including a ventilation system. Cigar lounges are defined in the bill as a business dedicated to the smoking of cigars which generates 15% or more of the business’s annual gross income from the sale of cigars. Smoking products sold outside of the business’s property would not be allowed within the cigar lounge.
The Senate Industry and Business committee gave the bill a Do Pass recommendation by a vote of three to two. The carrier of the bill, Sen. Doug Larsen, R-Dis. 34, Mandan, said a similar bill failed by one vote last session.
“We heard a lot of negative testimony,” said Larsen. “We heard a lot from businesses that wanted to try this out. Some of the negative testimony will always be negative, it didn’t matter, as long as they’re smoking, we didn’t want smoking, period. To me this bill is about allowing adults to do adult things where an owner says yes, I’m going to make the investment.”
“We used to have ashtrays on the desk,” said Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Dis. 11, Fargo. “In my first session there was a debate about whether or not we should have smoking here. In addition to that controversy, we had some wonderful people in the Senate who enjoyed smoking cigars. I am here, they are not. There is a consequence to cigar smoking as there is for other tobacco. And I miss those people. Let’s not start down a road of reintroducing cigar smoking in our state.”
HB1229 passed by a vote of 25 to 22. The House and Senate must agree on the amendments before the bill will be sent to the governor’s desk for consideration.