Imagine how ridiculous it would be for a state to ban meat in butcher shops and fast food restaurants because vegetarians don’t like it or because consuming it may contribute to health issues like obesity, high cholesterol or diabetes. Outrageous right? Common sense tells you that vegetarians and people who consider meat a health risk just NOT shop at those types of businesses, right?
Yet almost annually, some representatives in the Pennsylvania legislature propose a ban on cigar smoking in cigar stores and cigar bars! The PA House of Representatives is – once again – considering expanding a ban on smoking in all bars, casinos, cigar stores and cigar bars. This bill would badly damage stores like the Cigar Box and Smoke Rings Cigar Bar. Some representatives don’t like the idea of customers making decisions on where to shop or eat, or owners deciding how they run their business. It is another example of the over-regulation of the Nanny State.
Last year, Pennsylvania passed into law a 40% tax on tobacco and vape products to close the budget gap they created. This tax is placed on wholesalers which raises prices for retailers and consumers. Imagine a purchase bought in a tobacco or vape store that used to cost $100 – with the 40% tax the new cost is $140. Then at the register, the state still imposes a 6% sales tax on all $140, another $8.40. So now the total cost with tax is $148.50 – with the state getting $48.50 from you for a legal product that should cost $100. That’s right – we’re now at the point of the state taxing a tax for the excuse of “protecting” the very customers they’re taking money from because of the products they choose to buy and use! If someone took $48.50 from you in an alley, you’d say you were mugged. Our state says you were “protected.”
A ban on smoking in cigar bars would force the closing of Smoke Rings and places like it. Other bars offer a menu of food and drinks. For those types of bars, smoking or not is a policy decision that an owner makes within the current law. In turn, customers decide among countless options where to go for drinks or to eat. At Smoke Rings, the product is cigars – not food. Having a bar that sells cigars and offers a place to smoke them is the entire premise of the business! There is nothing tricky or deceptive about our purpose – it’s very name is “SMOKE” Rings – a pretty good indicator to people. As is – by the way – “CIGAR” Box and Infinity “VAPES.”
Smoke Rings is locally and family-owned by people looking to make a living, pay the bills, raise families. It restored a blighted property to the tax rolls with a first-class establishment. It created several full and part-time jobs which would be lost if it were forced to close. It’s brought people from surrounding areas to Hazleton which benefits the local economy. We’ve supported non-profit groups through fundraising efforts including with local police and fire associations. Is it even remotely right to be forced out of business by the state?
PLEASE contact your state representatives and let them know that you oppose expanding the current law to include cigar stores, cigar bars or casinos. We truly believe that our elected representatives have more pressing priorities than yet more regulations that take away choices and jobs. For these businesses and customers, government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem. At the very least, include an amendment to exempt cigar store lounges and cigar bars – for us it’s not a policy question – it is our business.