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Clean air enacted today

 

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Alice Campbell Havre Daily News [email protected]

Although many area business are smoke free, most Havre bars and casinos waited until today to make the switch . The Montana Clean Indoor Air Act was passed by the state Legislature in 2005. It bans smoking in enclosed public places and work spaces. Many businesses have already made the switch, but an exception allowed bars and casinos to wait until today to begin banning smoking. Many in the area took advantage of this extension. "Well there's the pros and cons to (the law)," Tom Farnum, president of the Hi-Line Tavern Association said. "The older people who have smoked for years, it's going to be hard to adjust." Bert, a patron of 15 west Bar and Eatery, a long-time smoker, said he doesn't have anything against the smoking ban, but that he won't frequent bars as often anymore. That means that, while he'll continue to smoke, he'll do it less, spending less on cigarettes and giving less to the government by way of cigarette taxes, he said. While Farnum said he expects area establishments and casinos to take a hit, "it's hard to tell" what that will be. At Bullhook Bottoms Sports Bar and Casino, Bob, a smoker, said he won't go to bars as often anymore. It's more to him than just the cigarette, it's the principle, he said. The "government shouldn't intrude," he said. His friend Stephen agreed. "There's too much government already," the non-smoker said. Kevin, who doesn't smoke, said he Was smoking Wednesday night at 15 West, the last night it was legal, because he views the law as a "fundamental invasion of privacy." If people want to do something legal in an establishment, they should be able to, he said. At the same time, he added, he's looking forward to not smelling like smoke when he leaves an establishment. Tony, sitting at the bar with Kevin, said he's actually excited about the change. He used to smoke, but quit. "It'd just be nice not to have it (the tobacco smoke)," he said. A group of women, sitting further down the bar, said that the ban is government overstepping what they see as its bounds. To Shirley, not being allowed to smoke makes her feel like a criminal, she said. If cigarettes are so bad, why are they sold in the first place, she said. Laura, a smoker, said that the government keeps adding to the list of things people can and can't do. She won't come to the bar as often anymore, she said. Jim, also sitting at 15 West's bar, offered a solution: Get a good filtration system so the smoke is drawn away from customers instead of settling. The test of what will happen to the bar and casino business will be today, Jim said, when people who were at the bar Wednesday night might not be back. Darrell, sitting with Jim, said he thinks the bar business will take a financial hit and the state will take a hit, too, from fewer cigarette and alcohol sales. He questioned what might happen to the job market in the bar industry, saying that less revenue and fewer patrons would mean less people needed to work. Bob said the same thing. "We're going to hear a lot about it for a long time," he said. Farnum, manager of the Eagles Club, said he can have more youth and family events in a smoke-free atmosphere, a plus for his business. "But at this point, you know, we'll see what it brings," he added. Some bars and casinos are posting signs stating smoking is prohibited, but Stacey, a bartender, said that everyone knows it's happening today and that people have been talking about it for weeks. She's a little put out by the move. "It's my choice to be around (smoking)," she said, adding that she thinks businesses will take a hit, especially in gaming where many players see smoking and playing as inextricable from each other. The bar she works in will pick up all the ashtrays, she said, adding that she expects she'll have to tell people to take their cigarettes outside. Montana is the 18th state to go smoke- f ree, said Jay Schuschke, a prevention specialist with the HELP Committee. "The evidence seems to be in other states that it has not been detrimental to those businesses," he said, because if all the bars and casinos are smoke free, "it's a level playing field." He added that the move is "an important matter of public health" and "progress toward a safer and healthier Montana." The county is still refining a standard procedure for dealing with complaints, and eventually people will be able to submit complaints online, Schuschke said. Complaint forms will be available at different local locations. Once a complaint is received about an establishment, an educational letter will be sent. If more complaints are received, a letter of warning will be sent and a letter of reprimand next. "And from that point, it becomes where a business could be fined $100 for a first offense ... ," Schuschke said. A $200 fine will be given for the second offense and on up to $500 for subsequent complaints received about offenses, he said. On the net: http://tobaccofree. Mt.gov

 

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