Cigar and tobacco retailers in Nebraska finally have something to cheer about. Since 2009 it has been illegal in Nebraska for patrons and consumers of tobacco shops and cigar emporiums to light up inside the shop itself. But, in a 34-2 decision, the Nebraska state lawmakers passed the bill marking success in its first test to becoming law. Cigar aficionados may soon be able to light up right there in the cigar shop sooner than they thought—a good omen for tobacco shop merchants all over the country.
In 2009, the Nebraska supreme court struck down an exemption that allowed for tobacco shops and cigar emporiums to have patrons smoke inside, originally restricted by the Nebraska Clean Indoor Air Act. The Clean Air Act bans smoking in all public places. Yet, the exemption protected tobacco retailers. Yet, a billiards hall owner complained this was unfair as his establishment had no such exemption, and he supposed that as a result he might lose business.
The inability to permit customers to sample and light up at a retail location briefly led to a shift towards online tobacco shops and online tobacco merchant accounts, but on-site retailers were still hung out to dry. Yet, with the success of the first-round of the new amendment, titled LB 118, lawmakers have given tobacco shop owners new hope.
LB 118 has not gone without scrutiny. The wording in particular has been tightened to protect the Clean Air Act by leaving no back doors open for interpretation of ‘public places.’ The bill itself explicitly states ‘tobacco retailers.’ The protection of the state’s Clean Air Act remains paramount among lawmakers. Local cigar aficionados hail the move as a victory from one more intrusion by the government on their favorite hobby.
The scrutiny and criticism of the tobacco industry in the United States has intensified in the past two decades. Lawmakers continue to write new laws into effect that restrict the tobacco industry domestically, though not abroad. US-based tobacco companies continue to grow their business in foreign markets. Yet, despite the national trend, there are still small victories to be had by homegrown tobacco shops, as shown by Nebraska’s LB 118.