Pennsylvania Smoking Laws in Flux: House Committee Navigates Changes in H.B. 1657
The future of smoking in Pennsylvania’s cigar stores and bars appears to be secure, as the state’s House of Representatives Committee on Health voted H.B. 1657 out of committee today. Originally, the bill aimed to eliminate 11 of the 12 exemptions provided in the 2008 Clean Indoor Air Act, leaving only private homes exempt from the smoking ban. However, a series of amendments altered the course of the legislation, preserving several exemptions, including smoking in private homes, tobacco shops, workplaces of tobacco manufacturers, importers, or wholesalers, cigar bars, and outdoor patios.
The revised bill also broadens the definition of cigar bars to include smoking lounges within private clubs that have proper ventilation systems. This addition stirred controversy among Republicans on the House Health Committee, led by Rep. Kathy Rapp, who advocated for removing the ventilation requirement and letting private clubs decide on smoking policies through a vote. The concern was raised that not all private clubs could afford the necessary ventilation, impacting places like VFW halls.
It’s worth noting that the bill, in its current form, proposes a smoking ban in Pennsylvania casinos and eliminates exemptions for specific private events, including the popular Cigarfest organized by Cigars International. The latter changed its format last year, opting for smaller events at its stores across the country.
Pennsylvania stands out as one of the three states, alongside the District of Columbia, without an added tax on cigar sales. Given its favourable tax climate and strategic location in the northeast, the state plays a crucial role in the premium cigar industry. Some of the industry’s major retailers, such as Cigars International, Famous Smoke Shop, Holt’s, Atlantic Cigar Co., Best Cigar Prices, and Cigar Page, are all headquartered in Pennsylvania. The outcome of this legislative process holds significance not only for public health but also for the economic landscape of the state’s cigar industry.
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