Judge Lets Nevada Smoking Ban Stand

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A Nevada judge let stand a voter-approved smoking ban on Tuesday, ruling that parts of the measure providing for a civil fine of up to $100 were constitutional while ruling out stiffer penalties including jail time.

Clark County District Court Judge Douglas Herndon acknowledged that his ruling was similar to a preliminary injunction he issued last month.

Both found that some elements of Question 5 were flawed, but others passed constitutional muster.

"My opinion really hasn't changed," the judge said. "The central intent of the measure, in my mind, is banning smoking."

But the judge said the wording of parts of Question 5 making lighting up a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine were too flawed to let stand.

The measure, dubbed the Clean Indoor Air Act, was approved 54 percent to 46 percent on the Nov. 7 ballot. It has been in effect in most parts of the state since Dec. 8.

Enforcement was postponed in more than 220 Clark County taverns,
supermarkets and convenience stores after they filed suit challenging its constitutionality.

The measure prohibits smoking in bars and restaurants, in slot machine sections of grocery and convenience stores, and at video arcades, shopping malls, schools and day-care centers.

The law still allows smoking on gambling floors of casinos.

Lawyer Stephen Minagil, representing the Southern Nevada Health
District, said outside court Tuesday that Las Vegas-area health inspectors can issue citations to smokers who light up or bar owners who fail to remove ash trays and post "no smoking" signs. He called it unlikely that bartenders or managers would be fined.

Minagil said the health district board will have to determine whether those who receive summonses should appear before a judge or before a health department administrative hearing officer.

"We're going to build a better way to enforce it, to give people an efficient way to challenge (a summons)," he said.