K.C. Tobacconist Seeks Reasonable Compromise to Smoking Ban

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A Kansas City tobacconist is among those seeking to amend a smoking ban to permit smoking in cigar stores and smoke shops like his. "We need a place where smoking is permitted and children are not."

"Kansas City voters have declared their preference for a smoking ban in most public places but, in drafting the law, anti-smoking forces failed to exempt obvious locations like cigar shops and smoking clubs," said Kendall Culbertson, owner of the Outlaw Cigar Co., a Northland cigar shop.

Culbertson is seeking such exemptions to the smoking law approved by voters in April. He believes the omissions were a matter of oversight and plans to appear before Council's Public Safety Committee on Wednesday, September 17, to testify in favor of modifications to the smoking ban.

"I believe it is illogical that casinos can allow smoking while their primary business is gambling, but cigar stores like mine can't permit smoking even though our primary business revolves around our customers being able to enjoy premium, handmade cigars in our 800 sq. ft. smoking lounge," says Culbertson. "In this regard, Kansas City is out of step with its neighboring communities such as Leewood and Overland Park and other cities and states across the country."

Outlaw Cigar stages monthly events that regularly draw some 2,000 guests.

"We are, in some respects, a tourist destination and we bring in millions of dollars of business to our area every year," he said. "If we can't get an exemption from the law, we'll have to move outside the city."

Culbertson says he is looking for a 'win-win' situation for Kansas City, its residents and his business and customers.

"Businesses like ours are adult destinations aimed at adults who enjoy cigars. No adult non-smoker is going to accidentally walk into a smoke shop," he pointed out. "Most concerns regarding smoking have to do with children being exposed to second-hand smoke. That can't happen in a cigar store."

Culbertson believes that problems related to second-hand smoke are overrated and points out that the 2006 Surgeon General's report actually says 108 times on its 707 pages that evidence against second-hand smoke as a health issue is inconclusive. "That explains why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has never embraced second-hand smoke as an occupational hazard," he added.

"The bottom line is that for people like our thousands of customers who enjoy the legal pleasures of a fine cigar and the celebratory and social aspects of smoking such cigars, it's important for them to have a place where smoking is permitted and children aren't," he said.

"For these and other reasons, Council would be more than justified to modify the current law," Culbertson said.

Tony Tortorici

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