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Nebraska Judge Tries to Outlaw Smoking in Cigar Bars

Shop owners and legislators in Omaha, Nebraska are in an uproar over District Judge Jodi Nelson’s ruling to overturn an exemption of the state’s smoking ban for cigar bars, tobacco shops, and hotel rooms. Nelson contends that the exemption violates the constitution’s rules about uniformity of laws, specifically that there can’t be exemptions for certain classes of people or businesses.

She argued that the exemptions give preferential treatment to those businesses, which I will begrudgingly admit has some truth to it. That said, a big thing to consider here is that while the exemptions do technically give preferential treatment to those businesses, the well being of these businesses (hotels excluded) solely rests on the use of tobacco products.

Senator Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha, who spearheaded the 2009 law that exempted cigar bars, said the ruling was “a way over-reading” of the state’s special legislation restrictions and would set a precedent that would tear apart other laws with exemptions.

“This is a reasonable exception to a general rule,” said Lautenbaugh, according to an article in the Omaha World-Herald. “If it’s struck down, we can’t exempt anything from anything,” he added.

The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office appealed Nelson’s ruling Thursday. The office had issued a statement in 2009 saying that as cigar bars did not constitute a special class, exempting them would be perfectly constitutional.

I think that what Nebraska legislators (and every hell bent anti-smoking legislator in this country, for that matter) need to do is take a step back and ask themselves some key questions about the subject. Number one—does anyone who walks into a tobacco shop give a flying crap about secondhand smoke? Number two—isn’t the explicit purpose of a cigar bar (it’s in the name, after all) to provide a place for people to, I don’t know, smoke cigars? Is it really worth depriving smokers of something that they enjoy, even though enjoying it in these particular places affects literally nobody except the smokers?

The fact that there is even a big to-do over this is baffling to me. Aside from the fact that there are way bigger issues that legislators should be dealing with, which I won’t go into in the interest of keeping this blog at least somewhat nonpartisan, but come on guys, banning smoking in a CIGAR BAR? That’s like making eating illegal in restaurants, telling people they can’t drink at a bar, or banning swimming at a pool—cigar bars is there for a specific purpose, and District Judge Jodi Nelson’s ruling would outlaw that purpose.

With that, I hope you all have a smoky weekend, especially those in Omaha, Nebraska—keep smoking, write angry (but well-worded) letters to your legislators, and put a stop to this nanny garbage!

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