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D.C. Council Considers Additional Smoking Restrictions

"The business owner, they don't own the area out here; they shouldn't be able to say who can smoke out here," said Jackson, 53. "It's a public street. . . . I think the government is getting a little too involved."

Concerns about unnecessary government interference also dominated the discussion on whether to ban many single cigar sales.

Under the legislation, the ban would not apply to the city's five tobacco shops that sell high-end cigars. Mendelson and Alexander said Tuesday they are also open to exemptions for cigar bars and restaurants.

The bill is aimed at convenience stores and other vendors who sell single cigars for $5 or less, which are associated with "blunts," the street term for marijuana rolled in cigar paper.

Colin Ganley, a freelance reporter and cigar aficionado, told the committee he worries the proposed ban would unfairly target the city's poorest residents.

"We have to be somewhat careful not to throw everyone who purchases these products, and may not have the incomes to buy other [cigars], under the bus," Ganley said.

Alexander countered that few residents in her ward buy cigars for the tobacco. Instead, she said, companies are "targeting disadvantaged young people to promote drug use."

But Darrell D. Gaston, an ANC commissioner in Ward 8, questioned how the proposed ban would be enforced, noting single cigars are often sold out of ice cream trucks in his neighborhood.

"We must stop putting band-aids on social problems," Gaston said. "If you want to smoke, you will."

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