HELENA — 10 years ago every workplace, restaurant, bar and casino in Montana became smoke free due to the Clean Indoor Air Act.
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) said the law is one of the reasons for the reduction in adult tobacco usage.
“The Clean Indoor Air Act promotes that all Montanans have the right to have smoke-free air in their places of work or enclosed public places and that has really helped decrease smoking in public spaces and overall smoking rates,” DPHHS Health Lifestyles Section Supervisor Mandi Zanto explained.
The Clean Indoor Air Act was passed by the 2005 Legislature which made smoking in enclosed public places prohibited.
The law gave taverns and casinos until October 1, 2009 to be compliant and smoke-free.
Zanto said the implementation of the policy and increased awareness helped create a social norm of not smoking in a public place.
“It’s a lot more well-known of the consequences of nicotine and second hand smoke,” said Zanto. “Because of that, it has changed social norms and the ways we look at smoking.”
Since the implementation of the law, Montana had seen a steady decline in adult smokers, with only 18 percent reported being smokers in 2018.
Bruce McCullough is President of the Tri-County Licensed Beverage Association and a smoker himself.
McCullough believes the act has been beneficial for the taverns and made for a more diverse clientele.
“You know 10 years ago, of course it was an entirely different world when it comes to smoking in taverns. We all kind of enjoyed it but I think that indoor act was a good measure,” said McCullough. “Obviously the world is changing and the expectations of all of the citizens.”
McCullough said he’s found himself smoking less since the implementation of the law.
“In the old days you’d be in the tavern having a drink with your buddies, and the more you’d drink, the more you’d smoke,” he recalled. “The next thing you know you’ve smoked an entire pack. Having to go outside, you smoke less.”
The Tri-County Licensed Beverage Association is currently working with the City of Helena and Lewis and Clark Public Health to extend the Clean Indoor Air Act to the outdoors through a city resolution.
“I personally think personally it will be better for business,” said McCullough.
McCullough added he believes vaping should be treated just like regular cigarettes when it comes to smoking in a public establishment.
Currently there is no state policy to prevent the use of e-cigarettes.
It is up to the local municipality or establishment to regulate e-cigarette usage.