On February 26 there will be six public hearings which is a lot! This post is on one of those. Council will decide whether or not to amend the “Smoking in Indoor Places of Employment and Public Places” ordinance. There are a great many suggested amendments from the Missoula City-County Health Department so I wanted to share some of these details on the blog prior to the public meeting. Full disclosure, the language below is almost exclusively from the health department.
In 1999, Missoula was the first municipality in Montana to establish an ordinance that banned smoking in indoor public places. Then in 2005, the Montana State legislature created statewide restrictions, eliminating smoking in indoor public areas and workplaces, with a few exceptions. In 2009, those restrictions were extended to bars and taverns. Since 2009, the Missoula municipal ordinance has been less stringent than state law, and the Missoula City-County Health Department has relied exclusively on the state legislation to prevent smoking in indoor public places and places of work.
The Health Department considered recommending that the Missoula ordinance be repealed, but realized that there would be advantages to revising the current ordinance instead. Revisions could:
• Address E-cigarettes
• Codify Health Department smoking shelter guidelines
• Codify Parks and Rec rules restricting smoking in certain areas
• Afford private businesses the ability to restrict smoking within 25 feet of their doorways,
vents and other openings
• Clarify enforcement procedures
E-cigarettes were first introduced in 2006, and since then have been increasing in popularity. Many people consider them a safer alternative to smoking, but safer does not mean safe. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reports that vapor from alternative smoking devices can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including nicotine, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and cancer-causing agents that can be inhaled by bystanders. The National Academy of Sciences published a report in January 2018 that stated that there is conclusive
evidence that vapor from e-cigarettes increases the airborne concentration of particulates and nicotine in indoor environments, and that in addition to nicotine most e-cigarette devices emit numerous potentially toxic substances. Seven other Montana communities have already outlawed vaping in indoor public places.
The Health Department established guidelines for smoking shelters in 2010 to help clarify the provisions in the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act. These guidelines were recently supported by a court decision in Cascade County. While these guidelines don’t have to be codified in Missoula Municipal code in order to be in effect, having them in the city ordinance makes them more available to those who are subject to the rules.
The same is true for the Missoula Parks and Recreation smoking policies, which prohibit smoking in certain areas of the city’s parks. Most of these are aimed at reducing children’s exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.
The purpose of the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act is to provide smoke free air within public buildings and workplaces. However, the act does not address the infiltration of smoke from outside into those enclosed public places. City and County government and the University of Montana have policies that restrict outdoor smoking on their property in an effort to prevent environmental tobacco smoke intrusion and to protect non-smokers as they enter the buildings. Some private businesses would like to do the same. Those that front on public property (like sidewalks) have not had clear authority to restrict smoking. This ordinance would allow them to prohibit smoking within 25 feet of an opening, as long as they put up signs and take responsibility for ensuring that people don’t smoke within those areas.
FYI – you can always see the list of upcoming public hearings at this link.