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Legislature – Week 5


By Caven Wade UM Legislative News Service University of Montana School of Journalism

Bill Aims to Strip Clean Air Act and Allow Smoking Indoors If a bill in the Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Safety committee gets approval from lawmakers, businesses could again allow smoking indoors, but only if people under the age of 18 are not permitted in the establishment when smoking is allowed.

Sen. Jeremy Trebas, R-Great Falls, is sponsoring Senate Bill 205, which would revise the Clean Indoor Air Act and allow private establishments to obtain smoking licenses that would allow individuals to smoke inside.

"This bill strips most of the Clean Indoor Air Act back. Why? Because individuals as adults should be able to make their own health choices and property owners should be allowed to do what they want with their private property, even if the public is allowed on their premises," Trebas said. The Montana Clean Air Act was passed in 2005, which prohibits smoking in enclosed public spaces with the intent to protect "public health and welfare" to "recognize the right of nonsmokers to breathe smoke-free air;" and to "recognize that the need to breathe smokefree air has priority over the desire to smoke." Casinos and bars were exempt from the law until 2009. SB 205 would allow private establishments to allow smoking indoors but they would still need approval and a local county health department permit to be considered a smoking establishment. The bill would also require that the establishments put up signs outlining when the smoking hour goes into effect and that no indoor smoking can happen when people under 18 are allowed into the building.

Trebas said that the government has no right to strip private property rights away when adults know the consequences of their actions.

"If government banned every activity they thought was unsafe, we wouldn't be able to leave our homes or have the right to breathe without a mask, but that's a topic maybe better left in the recent past," Trebas said.

One person testified for the bill and 18 people testified against it, including Dr. Richard Sargent, a retired physician.

Sargent helped publish a study 20 years ago that outlined a drop in heart attacks in Helena in the first six months following the city passing a local Clean Indoor Air Act.

Sargent said that the heart attacks immediately rose back up after a reversal of the city ordinance.

"There is no question that there is a health effect of secondhand smoke. I used to submit a large stack of paper detailing all the effects of secondhand smoke, and when the data got to be so big that it wouldn't fit in a handful of papers, I started submitting a CD of all of the information on second-hand smoke," Sargent said.

Sargent said that SB 205 fails in two areas – people h...