Little Rock, Ark. Arkansas lawmakers won't have to give up their portable spittoons or cans of snuff after House members rejected a rule banning chewing tobacco from their chambers Thursday.
With a 51-27 vote, the House of Representatives fell short of the 67 votes needed to change the rules to ban the use of all tobacco products. House rules and state law already prohibit smoking cigars, cigarettes or pipes in the chamber.
Supporters of the ban noted that chamber rules, which prohibit food and drink in the chamber, allow for a day's worth of tobacco juice. Pamphlets on the risks of chewing tobacco that included pictures of diseased mouths were left on members' desks before the vote.
"We need to set an example in here for all the kids who sit in the gallery and watch us work," said Democrat Rep. Randy Stewart.
Rep. Billy Gaskill, who smokes and does not chew tobacco, said he opposed the ban and suggested supporters of the restriction were hypocrites with their own health problems.
"Here we go again, telling us how to live and how to die, and the very people that are most for this amendment are about 50 pounds overweight," said Gaskill, another Democrat. "Leave us alone. ... Let us die the way we want to."
Rep. Monty Davenport, who voted against the ban, pulled out a can of chewing tobacco during an interview outside the House chamber after the vote. Davenport said he wouldn't have minded if the ban passed and said he's trying to quit using chewing tobacco.
"It is gross, and as a health issue you can't defend it. It's unhealthy," said Davenport, a Democrat.