Are smoking licenses the future?

These are bad times for smokers, but there is one bright spot. Bills in Washington would create new exceptions to the state’s smoking ban, arguably the strictest in the country:

Both of the introduced measures, Senate Bill 5542 and House Bill 1683, call for the establishment of a special state licensing program whereby businesses would apply to the State Liquor Control Board for endorsement as either a cigar lounge or retail tobacconist. These businesses would receive a license, which could be renewed each year, and in return, patrons could light up within these establishments.

No more than 100 lounges would be licensed as a cigar lounge at $15,000 per year. Up to 500 businesses, each paying a fee of $5,000 per year, could receive a retail tobacco license.

Business owners shouldn’t have to pay tribute to the state in order to allow smoking on their own property. But it’s better than nothing, and with cash-strapped legislatures looking for new ways to raise revenue this could be a good way to take back some of the ground lost to smoking bans.

Last year the Tacoma restaurant El Gaucho spent thousands of dollars building a 25 foot airlock to separate its cigar lounge from the rest of the property. The state ruled that even this was not sufficient to comply with Washington’s smoking ban.