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HomeNewsArchivesNew Smoother, Milder Smoking Ban Moves Forward

New Smoother, Milder Smoking Ban Moves Forward

A bill to ban smoking in bars, restaurants and many public places made it through the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee Thursday after senators amended and softened it, allowing smoking outdoors.
The original bill passed out of the Health Committee would have essentially banned smoking in any public place except for a parson’s home, inside a private business where no employees have to be or inside a tobacco store. It would have prohibited smoking on the beach, in parks and in recreational facilities.
Amendments offered by Sens. Usie Richards and Shawn-Michael Malone clarified some of the bill’s definitions and added exemptions to the ban. Malone’s amendment allowed smoking in parking lots, public streets and other outdoor public places, so long as the smoking is more than 20 ft. from places where smoking is banned. An owner-operated business with no employees can have smoking in areas where no customers go, and a business can be set up specifically for adult smoking indoors.
Richards said he supports the concept of the bill but was concerned for the "rights of individuals and of the proprietors of businesses." Large hotels commonly ban smoking in most rooms but designate a floor for smokers. "Should a guest house with eight rooms be able to designate one of the rooms for smoking?" Richards asked rhetorically.
Richards’ amendment eliminated the ban on smoking in parks, playgrounds and outdoor recreation facilities, and changed the restriction on smoking at bars and restaurants to a ban on smoking indoors at such businesses.
Both amendments and the amended bill passed without dissent. Voting yea were Richards, Sens. Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Neville James, Sammuel Sanes, Patrick Sprauve and Michael Thurland. Sen. Celestino White was absent due to a loss in his family. The bill now goes for a final vote before the full Senate.
Rules and Judiciary also heard testimony on a "racino" bill to allow slot machines at the Randall "Doc" James horse track on St. Croix. After discussing the particulars of the bill, the committee voted without dissent to hold the bill and consider it again when the committee meets again April 12. Voting to hold in committee were James, Sanes, Sprauve and Thurland. Voting nay were Dowe and Sprauve.

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