The state Supreme Court dealt a blow to anti-smoking forces Monday when it declined to stop lawmakers from weakening Nevada’s smoking ban.
“We are not persuaded that extraordinary intervention by this court is appropriate at this time,” the court wrote in its ruling.
“We’re just happy with the way everything’s going right now,” said Gene Hill, president of the Nevada Tavern Owners Association.
Last week, a Senate committee endorsed changing the ban, which was approved by voters and enacted in 2006.
The ban, called the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, prohibits smoking in grocery stores, child care facilities, restaurants and bars that serve food, among other places.
Bar owners and slot machine operators, who fought hard against the law before its passage, have pushed for changes. They have said the ban cut their business by as much as 30 percent.
The changes endorsed by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week would allow smoking in bars that serve food, but only if those bars pledge to keep minors out. They could face heavy fines if minors are caught inside.
Health activists contend that because the state constitution prohibits changing or repealing a voter-approved initiative within three years, it is too soon for the Legislature to change the ban.
They say that because it went into effect Dec. 8, 2006, legislators could not act to change the ban until after Dec. 8.
Kendall Stagg, who helped the 2006 ban get passed, petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the Legislature from acting until after that date. But the law, as proposed, would go into effect after Dec. 8.
The changes might not even pass, as the court noted in Monday’s ruling, which would make the issue moot.
Tom McCoy, director of government relations for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, said he was not surprised by Monday’s ruling.
He said, however, that if the Legislature passes the changes to the smoking ban, his group would consider challenging its constitutionality with the Supreme Court.
So, he said, it is not over.
Contact reporter Richard Lake at email@example.com or 702-383-0307.