MINOT, N.D. (KXNET) — The North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill that would legalize cigar lounges and bars in our state.
A movement that has gone up in ‘smoke’ in past sessions is being backed by a city, which enjoys lighting up a cigar. But it’s getting another shot this time around.
When you think of cigars, you think of a boy’s club drinking fancy cocktails, with smooth jazz music playing in the background. That is the reality for many cigar enthusiasts, who say cigars are not an activity, but a lifestyle.
“It’s a niche,” explained Cigar Expert and Enthusiast Collin Nelson. “And it’s not so much as a habit as it is a lifestyle. People that like to enjoy cigars are not out there partying, and smoking cigars 24/7. Most of us that enjoy them, we like to come home from work, kick our feet up, and go sit on the back patio or whatever and have a cigar.”
But public health officials do not agree with the bill. The American Lung Association has given North Dakota an ‘A’ in smoke-free indoor air, and health officials want to keep it that way.
“Clean indoor air is a good public health policy,” stated the Director of Health Promotion for the First District Health Unit in Minot Holly Brekhus. “We’ve been fortunate enough for the last 10 years to have one of the strongest smoke-free laws in North Dakota. And we know it prevents youth initiation from having that role modeling of smoke-free indoor air. We know that it helps people who maybe are trying to quit.”
But House Bill 1229 could change that.
The bill states cigarettes, vapes, and cigarillos would still have to be smoked outdoors in designated smoking areas. The law would allow for the cigar bar or lounge to allow only cigars and have a proper ventilation system to filter out all the smoke.
Cigar enthusiasts believe the law prohibiting these lounges is unconstitutional.
“It’s a matter of personal freedom,” said Nelson. “It’s a legal substance, and they’ve taken our right away to enjoy it with groups of people. And we have a right to do that. If it’s a legal substance, why can we not have a place, and a place of business, where we can congregate to do these things?”
Representatives and enthusiasts for the bill believe this niche market would bring only strict cigar lovers to lounges, who aren’t worried about secondhand smoke.
The bill is now heading to the Senate for a vote.