The issue of special exemptions in regard to the statewide smoking ban is the key issue in a case that went before the Nebraska Supreme Court on Wednesday. While cigar bars and tobacco shops received an exemption to still allow smoking inside their establishments, places like pool halls did not, despite claims that the smoking ban was enacted in the state because of health concerns to employees of establishments that allowed smoking. An attorney for Big John’s Billiards, Ted Boecker, argued that the state was wrong to enact special legislation in the first place.
“It is the perfect example of special legislation. It literally says, the purpose of this act is to create an exception to the Nebraska Clean Indoor Act for cigar bars,” Boecker argued. “Why? Because a powerful member of the unicameral favored one of the cigar bars and liked to go there and enjoy the ability to smoke a cigar there.”
“You can’t say that the health of a waitress in a cigar bar is worth less than the health of a waitress in a pool hall,” Boecker continued.
Assistant Attorney General Dale Comer argued on behalf of the state, saying the restriction successfully narrowed the exemption to businesses that depended on more of their sales exclusively from tobacco products.
“It requires that if you have a humidor in place, that if you have 10 percent of your business in the sale of cigars…part of the focus is they’re trying to sell cigars, not run a bar or pool hall,” Comer argued, in regard to the exemption and why it was enacted.
The state’s high court will determine whether a lower court was right to strike down parts of a law that allowed for exemptions for cigar bars and tobacco shops. The indoor smoking ban was passed in 2008, with the Nebraska Clean Indoor Act.