Lawmakers in the Minnesota House added an amendment that would allow outdoor smoking shacks outside of bars and restaurants. The House voted 73 to 59 to include the measure in its finance bill.
Supporters say the shacks will provide shelter to smokers who go outside to smoke. They say some bar and restaurant owners have been struggling financially after the state smoking ban went into effect.
Republican Rep. Dean Urdahl of Grove City said the measure would forbid bar employees from serving food or beverages in the shacks. He said it is only meant to protect smokers from frigid conditions.
"I certainly support this amendment allowing these people to have a room, outside, away from the bar and not having to stand and shiver in the cold, getting sick and going to the doctor and costing us more money," Urdahl said.
Critics say the move is an attempt to weaken the state's smoking ban. There are several steps before the proposal could become law and it's not clear if it has enough support to clear both chambers.