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Exempted cigar bars possible

The government will consider exempting cigar bars and lounges from the proposed public smoking ban legislation.

“[Cigar lounges] will be looked at,” said Minister of Health Anthony Eden at the cabinet press briefing last Friday. “As long as the public is not exposed, it will be looked at.”

The draft white paper bill tabled in the Legislative Assembly proposes to ban smoking in all public places under a roof, which would include cigar bars and lounges. These establishments usually sell high–end Cuban cigars and alcoholic beverages. Some do not have a liquor licence.

Raglan Roper, owner of the Havana Club Bar at West Shore Centre and of the soon–to–open Havana Club Lounge at Regency Court, says he has spent more than a half a million dollars fitting out his two establishments. He thinks the law should exempt cigar bars and lounges.

He noted that cigar bars and lounges cater specifically to smokers.

“If you’re a non–smoker, you don’t go in there if you don’t want to,” he said.

Mr. Roper said people should not compare smoking cigarettes with smoking cigars.

“Smoking a cigar is totally different. You don’t inhale cigars,” he said, adding that cigar smoke in just gently drawn into the mouth and then pushed out by an exhale.

Unlike restaurants and many bars, food is not a key element to cigar bars and lounges. Mr. Roper said he used to serve meals at the Havana Club Lounge before severe Hurricane Ivan damage closed it. However, when he reopens the lounge within the next two months, Mr. Roper said he only plans to serve tapas, a type of finger food.

Mr. Roper said he has gone to great lengths to ensure there is proper ventilation in his establishment to ensure smoke will not linger. He said he has installed double the air extractors recommended for the square footage of his cigar lounge.

“I wanted to make sure it’s 99 per cent smoke free,” he said.

One of the delays in opening the Havana Club Cigar Lounge has been getting planning permission to build an outdoor patio at the establishment. Under the proposed law, smoking even on the patio would be banned.

Mr. Roper said the tobacco legislation would also hurt the sale of cigars to be smoked away from cigar bars and lounges. Because of the labelling requirements, it would no longer be legal to sell single cigars. Many people, particularly tourists, like to buy single cigars rather than spending the kind of money it takes to buy a package or box of cigars, he said.

Havana Club also employs a Cuban man who rolls cigars. Mr. Roper said the demonstrations are very popular with tourists. Boatswain’s Beach even hired Mr. Roper’s company to have the man roll cigars at one of the events during the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association conference last November. Under the proposed law, Roper’s could no longer sell or even give away the cigars rolled by the man because of the packaging requirements.

Mr. Roper said a petition is circulating with regard to the proposed Tobacco Bill.

“We want to give people in the smoking sector a chance to voice their opinion,” Mr. Roper said.

That petition, which supports the legislation generally, asks the government to consider creating a special category of establishments called cigar lounges to be exempted from the law. It also requests that establishments be able to manufacture cigars on site without the packaging and labelling requirements.

“[Cigars] should also be exempt from the point–of–sale restrictions, as a big part of the cigar mystique is to be able to touch and smell the cigars before purchase,” the petition states.

The petition also requests the government to reconsider some of the definitions in the bill. It asks that enclosed public space be defined as only areas that are fully enclosed and have a roof. Under the proposed law, any place with a roof, including a tent, would constitute an enclosed public space.

The proposed bill also bans tobacco use in places of collective use. The petition asks that these places not include partially enclosed or outdoor space. It also asks that the term premises not include any vehicle.

Cabinet minister Alden McLaughlin stressed at the cabinet press briefing that the bill was just a white paper for public consultation.

“The Bill may have significant changes as a result of this public consultation exercise,” he said.

One key supporter of the proposed bill has been Director of Public Health Dr Kiran Kumar, who has said the smoking ban should include cigar bars and lounges. Dr. Kumar was unavailable for comment at press time.

Source: Cay Compass