A bill that would ease terms of a voter-approved measure that banned smoking in many Nevada bars and other public places was approved on a 14-5 vote Friday in the state Senate.
SB372, softening 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.
Opponents included Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, who is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, said second-hand smoke didn't cause his disease but has caused cancer in other "unsuspecting victims."
"The voters of Nevada took it upon themselves to do this public service" by imposing the smoking ban, Lee said, adding, "The people voted to protect themselves from future health harm. We owe it to our constituents to uphold their decision."
While business lobbyists warned that the ban would destroy Nevada's tourism industry, Lee said, "I think that playing the slots is not that difficult without a cigarette. Let's uphold health and the will of the voters, the people of the state of Nevada."
Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, countered that SB372 doesn't run counter to voters' wishes because an amendment to SB372 provides protections against second-hand smoke and imposes penalties for violations.
"I defy you to look at the amendment ... and find something in there that says we have ignored the will of the voters and we want to expose children to second-hand smoke and we want to expose other people to second-hand smoke," Amodei said.
As amended, the bill calls for fines of up to $2,000 for bar owners who fail to keep out minors. Also, the state health officer could designate local health authorities to enforce the act.
The 2006 initiative prohibited smoking in restaurants and bars that serve food, among other areas.