CARSON CITY — Smokers in Nevada bars wouldn’t have to put down their cigarettes to pick up a french fry under a bill approved by a late-night vote in the Legislature.
With just three hours remaining in the 120-day legislative session, the state Senate voted 13-8 in favor of Assembly Bill 571, which would allow bars that allow smoking to once again serve food. The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who hasn’t said whether he will sign.
The bill modifies provisions of the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, which voters approved in 2006 to rid grocery stores, restaurants and other public places except for casinos and some bars.
Under the measure, bar owners were forced to close their kitchens in order to allow smoking, something they said cost them revenue and wasn’t what the voters wanted.
Under AB571 bars that allow smoking would also be allowed to serve food, so long as they offer enclosed, smoke-free spaces and prohibit people under age 21 from entering.
“Everyone I explained it to said it made sense,” said Sean Higgins, a lobbyist for the Nevada Tavern Owners Association.
Opponents included the American Cancer Society and others who said it would endanger the health of people working in bars.
“It moves our state backward in terms of heath care and tobacco,” said Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno.
It also would ensure that smoking isn’t banned from places such as the Las Vegas Convention Center when smoking-related trade shows are under way, another source of frustration with the original act.
An exemption for tobacco-related conventions was added in 2009 but the American Cancer Society sued, sending the matter to court. That prompted show sponsors to select other locations.
In addition to the tavern owners, the bill won support from the Nevada Resort Association.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3861.