Washington Senate Approves Exceptions To Smoking Ban

OLYMPIA, Washington — Washington state senators have approved a plan that would allow cigar and pipe smoking at a limited number of establishments.

Lawmakers narrowly passed the measure Tuesday afternoon, sending the bill to the House. The plan would permit up to 100 cigar lounges and 500 retail tobacco shops to allow smoking. Cigarettes would still be banned.

Businesses would have to pay annual fees of $17,500 to obtain cigar lounge endorsements and $6,000 to obtain tobacco store endorsements.

Supporters of the measure say it would allow some confined smoking for adults to enjoy in a social setting. Opponents say it violates the will of voters, who approved a strict smoking ban in 2005.

Last year, El Gaucho in Tacoma sparred with the Pierce County Health Department over the ban. Owner Paul MacKay said last year that the lounge was originally built as a smoking lounge at a cost of about $100,000.

El Gaucho ultimately accepted a permanent ban on smoking. No word yet on how an exception, if it is passed into law, would affect that deal.

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