SOURCE: Int'l Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers

May 02, 2008 17:18 ET

Albuquerque Tobacconists Condemn Secretive Attempt to Pass Smoking Ban Amendment

ALBUQUERQUE, NM--(Marketwire - May 2, 2008) - "The only thing worse than bad legislation is bad sneaky legislation," said tobacconists Larry Montes and Al Baca when they learned that the Albuquerque City Council was expected to secretly move this Monday on an amendment to the local smoking ban that would eliminate the current exclusion of cigar stores and private clubs. Montes and Baca are members of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association.

For more than 30 years, Montes has owned Albuquerque's Montes Pueblo Pipe Shop, the largest tobacco shop in New Mexico. His customers include internationally known politicians and local dignitaries. Eight months ago he opened a private club fully in accord with the current law. Both businesses use state-of-the-art filtration and ventilation systems and neither business has received complaints from neighbors.

Now Montes fears both businesses would face extinction if the amendment passes.

"The current smoking ban already deprives our residents and visitors of their rights as business owners and citizens. I've got a dozen employees plus me and my family who could be without jobs if this legislation passes. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll, sales and other taxes would be lost to the state," Montes insisted.

Baca, owner of Duke City Cigars on Jefferson, believes the secret introduction and potential passage of the proposed amendment borders on being unconstitutional.

"We've done everything by the rules even when we disagreed with them and now they want to change them surreptitiously in a way that will put us out of business," said Baca.

If Montes and Baca can't get the proposed amendment dropped, they at least want it fully discussed and open to public review. They are convinced that voters will not stand for the proposed change if they know about it and that the only reason it is being considered at all is because of the hidden agenda of a few.

"The only people who come into a cigar store or private club are those customers or employees who are fully aware of our business -- selling premium cigars and other tobacco products that are enjoyed like fine wines and champagne, for celebration and sociability. They make ordinary moments special and special moments extraordinary," Montes said. "Second-hand smoke in our facilities is a non-issue. I wish someone could tell me why this unreasonable, irrational and irresponsible action is being taken," Baca added.

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