North Dakota lawmakers approve legalization of cigar lounges, send bill to Gov. Burgum

Pushes to allow cigar lounges in North Dakota failed to win over lawmakers in previous years, but the bill narrowly passed the Senate last month.

Boxes of cigars sit on a table in a Fargo shop.
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

BISMARCK — In recent years, efforts to legalize cigar lounges in North Dakota have become a recurring skirmish within a larger tug-of-war between libertarian-leaning lawmakers and public health advocates.

The proponents of stogie sanctuaries have finally gotten over the hump — at least in the state Legislature.

The House of Representatives and Senate approved House Bill 1229, which makes an exemption for cigar lounges within the state’s anti-smoking laws. The bill goes to the desk of Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, whose spokesman declined to comment.

The bill specifies that licensed establishments could only allow the indoor smoking of cigars if their buildings are enclosed on all sides and equipped with ventilation systems. In its original form, the legislation sponsored by Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, would have permitted cigar smoking in designated alcohol-serving bars, but the Senate cut that provision from the bill.

North Dakota voters approved a ballot measure in 2012 banning smoking in bars and other indoor workplaces.


Pushes to allow cigar lounges in North Dakota failed to win over lawmakers in previous years.

If Burgum vetoes the legislation later this month, it would face a difficult path to the law books. Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber, and the Senate only approved Ruby’s bill by a three-vote margin in March.

Ruby and other bill supporters say adult consumers should have the freedom to decide if they want to smoke cigars in a designated indoor space. They argue cigar lounges don't harm anyone outside the enclosed buildings with second-hand smoke.

Anti-smoking advocates testified that allowing cigar bars would erode the state's otherwise strong restrictions on tobacco smoke. They contended cigar lounges would endanger workers at the businesses and enable an addictive behavior with severe health consequences.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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