High court upholds law against smoking

The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday agreed with a district judge's ruling upholding the voter-approved ban on indoor smoking.

Clark County District Judge Douglas Herndon earlier upheld the constitutionality of civil penalties imposed for violating the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act of 2006. But he ruled the criminal penalties contained in the act are unconstitutionally vague.

"We conclude that the district court correctly ruled that ... the statute is constitutional for civil enforcement but unconstitutionally vague for criminal enforcement," the majority opinion stated.

Chief Justice Jim Hardesty and justices Michael Douglas, Chris Pickering, Mark Gibbons and Nancy Saitta also concluded that the district court was correct in severing the criminal provisions from the statute without ruling the entire statute unenforceable, saying, "It was the intent of proponents of the statute that the act remain in effect if a portion was severed."

The act bans smoking in most indoor public places with the exception of casinos, stand-alone bars, retail tobacco stores, strip clubs and brothels.

After it passed, businesses including Terrible's Hotel and Casino, the tavern owners association and Flamingo Paradise Gaming filed suit challenging the statute as unconstitutional.

After Judge Herndon issued his ruling, those corporations appealed to the Supreme Court. In addition, the attorney general's office, several police organizations and health officers also appealed seeking reinstatement of the criminal sanctions approved by voters.

The high court Thursday agreed with the district court ruling on all counts.

The lone dissent was by Justice Michael Cherry. He said allowing or banning smoking based on whether a business has a restricted or non-restricted gaming license is an arbitrary difference with no rational basis.

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