LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Some people feel it's time for Louisville to lighten up on its ban on lighting up indoors. A bipartisan proposal penned by Metro Council members would allow for an exception to the city's smoke-free rule, letting people smoke in cigar lounges if passed.

What You Need To Know

  • Louisville currently has a smoke-free ordinance that bans smoking indoors

  • There's a proposal to allow for cigar bars to be an exception to that rule, which has garnered both support and opposition

  • For now, people must drive across the river into Indiana to find a cigar lounge 

  • The proposed rule change is expected to be debated by Metro Council in a couple of weeks

Jeffersonville, Indiana, wasn't Jeff Mouttet's first location of choice for his Match Cigar Bar; however, he said it's done well over the past decade. City regulations prevented him from operating in Louisville, Mouttet explained. There's a ban on indoor smoking, as part of the city's efforts to curb the harmful effects of tobacco on its residents and visitors. 

Mouttet defended the hazy atmosphere of a cigar bar like this: "It's not about getting nicotine into your body, but it's about the camaraderie that's sitting down at the end of the day, relaxing with your friends, having a bourbon and just enjoying life," he claimed.

That's why he said it's "long overdue" that Louisville allows lounges like his within its city limits. A proposed ordinance sponsored by Metro Councilman Mark Fox, D-District 13, and Councilman Anthony Piagentini, R-District 19, would do that. 

"It would have no impact on anybody who smokes or doesn't smoke," Piagentini argued against those fighting the proposal. 

The Department of Public Health and Wellness has publicly presented its argument that peoples' health would be detrimentally impacted by a smoke-free exemption. 

Since the city's smoke-free law was established in 2008, the Center for Health Equity's Rebecca Hollenbach said, "We've seen decreases across adult smoking rates, across new cancer cases,and across cancer deaths, and we don't really wanna see that trend go in the opposite direction."

Piagentini refuted the claim that cigar bars could reverse any gains the city has made against tobacco harm on its residents. 

"I'm just tired, tired of us creating regulations that benefit the bordering state," he added.

The ordinance to exempt cigar bars from the ban on indoor smoking would apply only to businesses that do at least 51% of revenue from sales of cigars and cigar-related products. Still, Hollenbach isn't satisfied it could mitigate any harm. 

"[Smoke's] going to seep out and affect anyone who is in the building with them," she said.

Meanwhile, Mouttet is supportive of the proposal, even if it would mean a hit to his profit at first. 

"To say that people shouldn't — adults, consenting adults — shouldn't have a place where they can do that seems to me be a little crazy," he said. 

Debate and a vote were originally set for Thursday night, but Piagentini said it will be pushed back for a couple of weeks.