GREAT FALLS (AP)
Great Falls city commissioners voted Tuesday to repeal a city ordinance that banned smoking within 20 feet of buildings. The Montana Tavern Association had lobbied the commissioners to change the ordinance because it was too hard to enforce. Others noted the statewide Clean Indoor Air Act, which bans smoking in all public buildings, began applying to bars and casinos on Oct. 1, leading to more customers smoking outside. Some supporters of lifting the ban said that where several bars are close to each other, smokers would have to stand in the middle of the street to comply with the restriction. Police Chief Corky Grove said he did not bel ieve any t icket s h a d b e e n wr i t ten for violating the ordinance. Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to repeal the ban. Commissioner Bill Bronson, who called smoking “one of the most disgusting and detestable habits out there,” said he voted to repeal the ban because the 20-foot rule could not be enforced fairly. “Let each individual property owner address it,” Bronson said. The statewide Clean Indoor Air Act addresses some concerns and he did not believe a city ordinance should have harsher rules than state law, he said. During Tuesday’s meeting, health advocates argued that overturning the ban could make it more difficult for people with health problems and children to approach stores or other buildings without being faced with a cloud of smoke. “There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” a r g u e d Ba r b a r a Beset te of Great Falls. City-county health o f f i c e r A l i c i a T h omp s o n s a i d repealing the ban will lead to people smoking in doorways. Tavern owner Doug Palagi said he wanted to build an outdoor shelter for his smoking patrons, who now have to smoke outside. But he said he couldn’t justify the expense with the 20-footrule in effect.