Protect the Clean Indoor Air Act


  • Your State Representative or Representatives


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Dear [Decision Maker],

I strongly support the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act (MCIAA) as it was passed by the Montana legislature in 2005. I appreciate that Montana continues to prioritize protecting the public's health and welfare and that we recognize the rights of nonsmokers to breathe smoke-free air by prohibiting smoking in public places and places of employment.

Please vote no on HB 481. This bill was portrayed as a clarification bill. It is not. HB 481 adds a new exemption to the MCIAA. The Proponents already admitted that three cigar bars already exist. In present law, places where smoking is allowed must not share a building with other places of business or where the public is allowed to enter as the smoke would infiltrate smoke-free places of employment.

If this bill passes a smoking club or private social club could set up in the same building as a daycare, health care facility or senior center, and the law would not protect those more sensitive populations from secondhand smoke. This defeats the purpose of the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act.

The only proponents for this bill in committee were the Fool's End Club lead member and their attorney. The Fool's End Club, a private cigar smoking club, set up in the basement of a downtown building. The Missoula Children's Museum was located upstairs and had been there for years. Soon after the club opened, the Health Department, Mayor's Office and City Council started getting complaints from Children's Museum employees and patrons about cigar smoke smell, headaches, coughing, and concerns young kids were being exposed to secondhand smoke.

The Health Department investigated, found the complaints to be credible and that the smoking club was the cause of smoke. Efforts to get the club to stop smoking in the building were ineffective, so the Health Board filed a lawsuit. As the lawsuit progressed, the Children's Museum continued to have problems with smoke from the club. Finally, they decided the situation was untenable, and first, closed temporarily when the smoke was bothersome to staff and patrons, and then later moved out of the building.

The judge noted that the MCIAA includes a list of exceptions to the prohibition of smoking in an enclosed public space. The list "includes private residences and private vehicles and a few other specific locations. Notably, "private clubs" or the like are not specifically excepted so, even if an entity can rightly claim to be a private club, smoking can still be prohibited within the space it uses if the spaces otherwise meets the definition."

The court went on to find that the Fools End Club did "otherwise meet the definition" because even with attempts to seal off the club from the Children's Museum, smoke seeped through, proving that the club shared air space with the Children's Museum. The judge wrote, "If an enclosed space shares the same indoor air space as a public place, the prohibitions of the MCIAA would clearly apply to both spaces." The lawsuit has been stayed (suspended) because when the Children's Museum moved out.
They could no longer put their employees and customers at risk.
Let's keep to the intent of Montanan's smoke-free law and not allow the desire of a private club to supersede the protection against exposure to secondhand smoke. I ask you to vote NO on HB481. If a private club wants to allow smoking no one is stopping them. They just do not have the right to expose others who share a building to secondhand smoke.

Thank you for your consideration.

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