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January 16, 2018

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Bill that would permit smoking prompts lawsuit

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CARSON CITY – A lawsuit has been filed to stop the Nevada Legislature from moving forward with a bill that would permit smoking in more places and opponents say it would gut the clean air act approved by voters in 2006.

The suit filed in Nevada Supreme Court seeks a writ of prohibition to stop the Legislature from considering Senate Bill 372, set for a hearing Friday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Kendall Stagg said he led the effort to gather signatures for the initiative petition to ban indoor smoking in certain businesses and voters approved it 310,524 to 265,375.

He said the Legislature is now seeking to violate the Nevada Constitution by trying to amend the law. The constitution, according to the suit, says an initiative petition approved by the voters “shall not be amended, annulled, repealed, set aside or suspended by the Legislature within three years from the date it takes effect.”

The bill violates that mandate, says Stagg, a former candidate for the Reno City Council.

But the bill introduced by the Senate Judiciary Committee would not become effective until December this year, or three years passed the approval by the voters.

The bill would permit smoking in places of employment if there is an enclosed area with a separate method of ventilation. It would permit smoking at conventions or trade shows that are not open to the public and are being organized by a tobacco association or a professional association of convenience stores and involves the display of tobacco products.

It would permit smoking in adult standalone bars, taverns or saloons with gambling licenses and that prohibit those under 21 years old from entering.

And it would repeal a section of the law that authorizes local governments to enact stiffer prohibitions against smoking. Local authorities would be prohibited from enforcing the clean air act.

The suit said the action in the Legislature makes the vote of the people meaningless.

“Ignoring the devastating impact passage of SB372 would have on public health in Nevada, other significant public policy and constitutional considerations support the need to enforce the three-year moratorium on the legislative action,” the petition said.

Opponents of the Nevada Clean Air Act have fought this in courts before and lost, and are now taking the battle to the Nevada Legislature, says Stagg, who could not be reached for comment.

Earlier this week, John Packham, director of health policy of research at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, wrote that this Senate bill would “essentially dismantle the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act.”

In a column in the Reno Gazette-Journal, Packham wrote that passage of the bill would “set back tobacco control and prevention by at least two decades.” For instance, he said it would permit smoking in places such as grocery stores and restaurants if there was a separate area.

Cy Ryan may be reached at (775) 687 5032 or [email protected].

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