Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Cigar exemptions pass in committee

The Madison City Council will debate a proposal next month to exempt cigar bars from the city's controversial smoking ban after members of the City Council Organization Committee referred the proposal Tuesday.

The proposed ordinance would allow patrons to smoke tobacco products — excluding cigarettes — in cigar bars designated by the city.

"My interest is to keep a struggling business in my district open," Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said. "City Council has contributed to the demise of [local cigar bar] Maduro with city legislation."


Verveer, who authored the proposal, said Maduro is the only surviving cigar bar in Madison after the smoking ban passed last year.

Though Maduro is keeping afloat, the establishment's owner Brian Haltinner said sales have been decreasing ever since the ordinance was passed.

Some of the measures to save Maduro's revenue have included downsizing staff and decreasing the number of live music nights from six to three.

"Our image is around cigars," Haltinner added. "It makes more sense to have a cigar bar exemption."

Haltinner also emphasized that fundamentally, smoking pipes and cigars is a different activity by nature than smoking cigarettes, as it takes more than five minutes to thoroughly enjoy a pipe or cigar.

But Dr. Tom Schlanker of the Madison Health Department said passing the ordinance would raise serious public health issues.

"I think it's pretty clear that cigar bar smoking is much more like cigarette smoking," he stated. "Both cause cancer."

Though the risk of getting lung cancer is lessened in those who smoke cigars, Schlanker said the risks of getting mouth and throat cancer are just as high for heavy cigar smokers as heavy cigarette smokers.

"The smoke is pretty much the same," he added. "And a smoky cigar bar is more [dense with smoke] than a smoky cigarette bar."

Jean MacCubbin, a member of the Tobacco Dane County Coalition Board, raised questions about the scope of enforcement with cigar bars and the process of verification for cigar bars.

"[The smoking ban is] a public health code, not an economic development code," she said.

But Ald. Austin King, District 8, supported the proposal and said the increase in tavern licenses after the smoking ban was passed indicates improvement to the city.

"I agree with how well things have been going," he said. "This is a reasonable … compromise."

Verveer emphasized the proposal would only exempt cigar bars, and would not allow any type of cigarette smoking.

"This is not about repealing the smoking ban," he said. "This is not about cigarettes, and has nothing to do with cigarettes."

According to Verveer, the proposal will not just protect Maduro, but will allow for the opening of other cigar bars if the establishments meet the requirement of annually gaining 10 percent of their revenue from tobacco sales.

"I don't think this will lead to a mad rush of cigar bar openings," he added.

In addition to the cigar bar exemption, the proposal would allow patrons to chew tobacco in any bar in the city, which King also supported.

The proposal is likely to spark some debate in next month's City Council meeting, but many of the City Council Organizational Committee members have already sponsored the proposal.

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