A bill that would ease the terms of a voter-approved measure that banned smoking in many Nevada bars and other public places was approved on a 6-1 Wednesday by a key legislative committee.
SB372, approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which softens the 2006 Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, would allow smoking in bars that serve food as long as minors are restricted from entry.
Also, businesses could wall off separately ventilated smoking rooms.
The 2006 initiative prohibited smoking in restaurants and bars that serve food, in slot machine sections of grocery and convenience stores, and at video arcades, shopping malls, schools and day-care centers. Smoking is still allowed on gambling floors of casinos.
Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, who cast the lone "no" vote, said she sympathizes with the bill's advocates who say the 2006 ban hurt many businesses and cost many people their jobs. But she said SB372 "would undo the good work that has been done" by the 2006 act.
"I believe that what was done in the Clean Indoor Act was the proper thing to do to protect the public health of the people of Nevada, and I didn't see that any modifications would be appropriate," Wiener said after the hearing.
As amended, the bill calls for fines of up to $1,000 for bar owners who fail to keep out minors. Also, the state health officer could designate local health authorities to enforce the act.
Sen. Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, said banning minors from bar eateries that allow smoking addressed arguments by the bill's opponents that children could be exposed to second-hand smoke.
"I know that one of the main concerns of the opponents we heard over and over again was the exposure of smoke to children, and I think that satisfies that," Copening said.
Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, said he didn't agree with the fine because it represented an added burden on bar owners, though he agreed minors should be kept out.
Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, who suggested the idea of a fine, said he understood Washington's point, but bar owners who serve food can choose whether or not to allow smoking.
"I'm of the mind if this is what these people want, then there should be a burden," Care said.