Nevada - lawmakers may weaken smoking ban..

April 14, 2009 - The state Supreme Court dealt a blow to anti-smoking forces Monday, 4/13/2009 when it declined to stop lawmakers from weakening Nevada's smoking ban. ( Nevadans voted on November 7, 2006 to enact the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act in order to protect themselves and their families from the dangers of secondhand smoke. The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act..)

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed changing the ban, which was enacted in December 2006. The ban 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, 2009.

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, 2009.

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.

Kentucky, West Virginia, and Nevada have the highest annual rates of smoking-attributable mortality in 2000-2004.

Reference: SMOKING BAN: Court snuffs try to stop law change Bill would weaken Indoor Air Act by RICHARD LAKE, LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 4/14/2009.

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