Nevadans seek local smoking standards |

Nevadans seek local smoking standards

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – Local governments should be able to set their own standards for dealing with the state’s tobacco-related health problems – among the worst in the nation – anti-smoking groups said Wednesday.

SB258 would allow local governments to go beyond state laws in adopting stricter ordinances on use, sale, distribution, marketing, display or promotion of tobacco products. The bill exempts casinos, bars and bar areas within restaurants from the tighter rules.

Larry Matheis of the Nevada State Medical Association told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Nevada is one of only a few states that don’t let local governments or boards set their own restrictions on smoking.

He added there’s no ”good compelling public policy reason” for the state to pre-empt local officials who want stricter rules on smoking.

Matheis argued that Nevada politicians often complain that the federal government ignores their rights to govern themselves, and his argument for local-level control is no different.

Other supporters of the bill said Nevada has the highest death rate from tobacco-related illness, the highest rate of adult smokers and the weakest smoking laws in the nation.

However, SB258 drew strong opposition from powerful groups including the hotel-casino industry and the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.

”You can be against tobacco. But this would be against business,” said chamber of commerce lobbyist Sam McMullen, explaining that the bill would make it difficult for businesses by allowing widely varying ordinances around the state.

The gambling industry opposed the bill even though casinos are exempted from its terms.

Harvey Whittemore, the state’s top casino lobbyist, said anti-smoking groups are trying to use the local control argument to hide an agenda of prohibiting smoking everywhere.

Whittemore said local control already exists because building owners may prohibit smoking. Business owners will operate nonsmoking facilities if that’s what customers demand, he said.

”The current law doesn’t pose a problem except for those who are trying to outlaw smoking altogether,” he said.

AP-WS-03-14-01 1920EST

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