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Valerie Miller
 

American Cancer Society sues LVCVA over smoking amendment

22 December 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The American Cancer Society is suing the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and claiming a recently passed measure allowing smoking in some convention areas violates the Nevada Constitution.

The society's Great West Division and its Cancer Action Network filed the complaint against the convention authority, Nevada State Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and public health officials over a revision to the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act. The measure, which was added on to the anti-stalking bill Assembly Bill 309 in the closing hours of the last legislative session, violates the state constitution's single-subject rule, the society claims.

The same measure, generally allowing smoking at tobacco conventions, had failed to make it out of committee earlier in the 2009 Nevada Legislature.

"Our (Nevada) Constitution says you cannot do that. We felt the Legislature did not have the authority to do this," said Tom McCoy, director of government affairs for the state's chapter of the American Cancer Society.

The complaint seeks to revise the law again so it only addresses stalking.

The society believes it is in a stronger position now to challenge the law because the criminal penalties were removed from the smoking ban by the Nevada Supreme Court in September. The rest of AB 309 relates to the crime of stalking, and the Legislative Counsel Bureau maintains legal precedent allows for more than one crime to be addressed in a single state law.

"The title of the law refers to smoking and stalking as the crimes," Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Lorne Malkiewich said. "There are many laws passed that include more than one crime."

AB 309 did not take effect until Dec. 9, the same date the society's lawsuit was filed in Carson City District Court. Dec. 8 marked the third anniversary of the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act becoming law. It was passed by voters as an initiative and could not be amended for three years.

The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act is now amended by AB 309 to allow smoking at tobacco conventions. One of the most prominent of those conventions is the Tobacco Plus Expo, which is scheduled for March at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The tobacco convention was last held in Las Vegas in 2008, but exhibitors and attendees were not allowed to sample tobacco products. The Tobacco Plus Expo, and the Retail Tobacco Dealers conventions held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, combined for 27,000 attendees and a $41 million economic impact over the last six years, according to the authority.

Convention authority spokesman Vince Alberta denied any violations took place.

"The lawsuit has no merit and we will outline our arguments through the legal process," he said in an e-mail.

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