Supporters of exempting cigar and pipe clubs from the state’s ban on smoking in bars thought they had a chance as the special session of the Washington Legislature was winding down. They’d been able to slap the bill to permit cigar bars in existing bars onto House Bill 2565 that would begin taxing roll-your-own cigarette establishments.
The cigar bar exemption was opposed by anti-smoking forces in the state even after they were promised that proceeds from the steep permitting fees would help restart the state’s smoking Quit Line. Budget cuts had eliminated funding for the Quit Line even though it was funded by cigarette taxes approved by voters. Washington is now one of the only states without a program to help smokers kick the habit.
Erin Dziedzic, lobbyist for the American Cancer Society, called the it “blood money” because they were being pressured to put workers in cigar bars at risk in exchange for Quit Line money.
Before the session ended, however, the cigar bars language was instead placed on its own bill title – Senate Bill 6623 which started life as “An Act Relating to State Government” and has been hanging around just for the purpose of reviving bills that have previously died.
But the underlying bill never came to a final vote. The Senate later approve HB 2565 which had become the vehicle for the roll-your-own taxes.
The last laugh may go to anti-smoking forces. Buried in the budget that was approved this morning is a new appropriation of $1.7 million to restart the Quit Line. So they didn’t need the revenue from new cigar bars to get the smoking cessation program going again.