No new smoking lounges in Oregon

Are you an entrepreneur wanting to open a new smoking lounge in Oregon? Too bad, that’s about to become illegal:

By the slenderest of margins, the Oregon House gave final legislative approval Wednesday to a bill aimed at preventing more hookah lounges from opening across the state.

The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. John Kitzhaber, who has said he will sign it.

The bill grandfathers in existing smoke shops and ones that apply for certification before the law takes effect. But after that, new smoke shops will face tight restrictions, including a ban on allowing customers to consume food or beverages, a maximum seating capacity of four people, and a requirement that at least 75% of sales be for off-premise consumption. On-premise smoking will be allowed strictly for the purpose of sampling.

Although the press and sponsors of the bill portrayed this law as anti-hookah, it makes no distinction between hookah lounges and cigar shops. Thus there will be no new cigar shops of the type that offer communal seating areas and lounges for their customers.

The smoking ban that took effect in 2009 restricts cigar bars as well; it allows exemptions only for businesses with tobacco sales records dating back to 2006, so it’s essentially impossible to open a new cigar bar either. The smoking lounges we have now or that will open very soon are all we’re going to get.

There is one silver lining to the bill: A couple senate amendments slightly weakened the final version of the law over the strong objections of sponsor and nanny statist Rep. Carolyn Tomei. It slightly lifts my spirits to know that she is unhappy.

Save Oregon’s smoke shops
Oregon’s smoking ban creep
Where there’s smoke, there’s over-regulation