Opponents Make Late Run at Anti-Smoking Law

Smoking Ban in need of second look
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CARSON CITY, NV - In 2006, Nevada voters overwhelmingly approved a ban outlawing smoking in most public places, including bars or taverns serving food.

Casinos and stand alone, booze-and-gaming-only bars, even strip clubs serving food weren't covered.

Since then, how successful it's been is up for debate and depends a great deal on where you are. Compliance is high in Washoe County. In Las Vegas it's widely ignored.

But many have argued from day one it's unfair as written.

"Some places you can. Some places you can't," says Reno tavern operator Tony Allegretti. "That's not fair. You should be able to do what other adult venues do."

Allegretti and his son operate Coach's Bar and Grille on South Virginia Street. The sign on the front door acknowledges the ban and encourages patrons to smoke outside. Not everyone does, but the law doesn't require Allegretti to enforce it. For others it's not even

You only have to step outside to see the problem. Five doors down there's another bar. Like Coach's, it's adults only. You can drink and gamble. Down there you can smoke. Here at Coach's you can't.

The difference is food.

Coach's has a full service menu, but a newly introduced bill, AB571, would leave it up to the Allegretti's to determine if their food service was only incidental to their operation. If they say it is, they would be exempt from the ban.

It may seem odd that this bill is surfacing now in the final days of the session. In fact, that's undoubtedly been the plan all along.

"It's showing up at the legislative eleventh hour, a time when all the rules have been suspended and unexpected things can happen fast with little notice.

"So, they could have a meeting this afternoon without any notice and without any notice to take up a vote on this," says the American Cancer Society's lobbyist, Tom McCoy.

The bill includes a $15-thousand dollars for a study of the issue. That amount doesn't buy you much in the way of a study, but its inclusion sends the bill through the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, also unddoubtedly no accident.

"That's where the leadership is," says McCoy. "So I'm sure they think that's where they can control the votes."

Late session manuevering is nothing new to this issue. Two years ago, another amendment lifting the ban in convention centers hosting tobacco product clients was slipped into another bill on the last day.

It's been challenged in court, but it's back in a modified form in AB571.

Meanwhile a controversial Clark County ordinance aimed at neighborhood slot parlors like the Dotty's chain may be adding another player to the debate.

The small casinos allow smoking, but don't have bars as such or kitchens. The new ordinance, passed at the urging of major Las Vegas casinos, would change that. Irequiring bars with at least 8 slots in them and kitchens

If you force them to have a kitchen, you can't smoke.

McCoy says he expects the committee to vote on the bill as early as Wednesday night, but as he says it could come at any time.

Allegretti hopes that it will.