|October 4, 2012
October 1 marked anniversary of Montana’s Clean Indoor Air Act
POLSON — October 1 marks the seventh anniversary of Montana’s Clean Indoor Air Act. Originally passed in 2005, the law gave certain bars and casinos four years to comply. The reason for the law is quite simple: that the need to breathe smoke-free air has priority over the desire to smoke. More than 50,000 Americans die annually from secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure, nearly four-fifths of them from heart disease. Considered the most important public health law ever passed, the act protects each individual’s right to breathe clean air.
One reason Montana joined over half of U.S. states in implementing such a law is that when you breathe in secondhand smoke, you breathe in thousands of chemicals. Secondhand smoke, which is the smoke coming off the end of the cigarette and the smoke exhaled by the smoker, causes damage to blood vessels, the heart and lungs in as little as 30 minutes. Cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde and polonium 210 (radioactive); toxic metals such as lead, cadmium and arsenic; and poisonous gases such as hydrogen cyanide, butane and ammonia û are just part of the reason the smoke is so toxic. Containing over 4000 chemical compounds, at least 50 of those in SHS can cause lung, breast or other cancers. That’s why in 2006, the Surgeon General of the U.S., Richard Carmona, determined there is no safe level of exposure to SHS.
Secondhand smoke changes how your heart, blood and blood vessels work in many ways. The inhaled smoke makes blood platelets stick together and it causes the delicate veins and arteries to become sticky and clogged. Adults who breathe five hours of SHS daily have higher “bad” cholesterol that clogs arteries. Because SHS has so many chemicals that are dangerous for your lungs, it is especially dangerous for young children and adults with heart and/or lung disease. Smoke-free laws are passed across this country and others, largely because of the determination that even brief exposure of SHS can have immediate, adverse health effects.
Businesses are encouraged to consider implementing a “setback rule” where no smoking is permitted within 30’ of your building or avoid direct exposure and smoke drifting into your establishment. The Lake County Courthouse and Health Department have adopted such a rule. Increased public understanding of this problem has made changes like these readily acceptable. If you are a business owner in Lake County needing more signage, please log onto tobaccfree.mt.gov or stop by your local health department.
The citizens whom this law is designed to protect have the right to file complaints against individuals smoking in an enclosed place or the owner who allows smoking in an enclosed place by logging onto tobaccofree.mt.gov. Citizens may also file complaints by calling their local health departments or by calling the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program at 1-866-787-5247. Remember, you have every right to breathe clean air while you are in a public place, and every Montanan has a right to breathe clean air while on the job. The evidence is overwhelming.