In 2005, the Montana legislature passed the Clean Indoor Air Act (CIAA), one of the most important public health policies in state history. The law was fully implemented Oct.1, 2009.

Designed to protect Montanans from the health dangers of secondhand smoke, the CIAA prohibits use of tobacco products in all enclosed public places and workplaces. Montana is among 17 other states in the nation that have 100 percent smoke free laws in non-hospitality workplaces, restaurants, bars and gambling venues.

The U.S. Surgeon General concluded in 2006 that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke and stated that the only way to protect public health is to eliminate exposure. Tobacco smoke carries at least 250 chemicals that are known to be toxic or carcinogenic, causing lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other fatal ailments. Commercial tobacco addiction is the number one cause of preventable death in the state, killing 1,600 citizens every year in Montana alone.

We are excited to celebrate 10th anniversary of the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act. As a child of the sixties and seventies, I remember smoke filled restaurants, movie theaters, doctors’ offices, trains, buses even doctors’ offices. Everywhere you were seated was a dirty ashtray, even in the armrests of public transportation. Through the years, the restaurant business did try to separate the smokers from the nonsmokers by providing “nonsmoking” sections. These were generally just a half wall that did nothing to stop second hand smoke from traveling to all parts of the restaurant.

The CIAA protects bystanders from exposure to deadly secondhand smoke, encourages adults to quit tobacco use and prevents youth from starting to use tobacco in the first place. But the work isn’t over yet.

E-cigarettes were introduced to the U.S. market in 2007, two years after the Montana Legislature passed the CIAA. Since then, e-cigarettes (also known as vaping and JUULing) have grown immensely in popularity, particularly among youth and young people. E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth in Montana. More than half of Montana high school students have tried e-cigarettes and 30 percent of high school students currently use e-cigarettes. There are 57 percent percent of Richland County high school students and 38 percent of middle school students who report trying e-cigarettes, vapes or JUULs, compared to only 4 percent of Montana adults.

The content of e-cigarettes is not yet regulated by the FDA, resulting in uncertainty as to what is actually aerosol being released from these products, not vapor. However, the U.S. Surgeon General has stated that e-cigarette aerosol is not as safe as clean air.

Studies have shown that e-cigarette aerosol can contain nicotine, metals, ultrafine particles and chemicals that have been known to cause respiratory disease and cancer. Exposure to nicotine in any form is unsafe for youth, pregnant women and developing fetuses. Studies have found levels of nicotine in e-cigarette aerosol similar to levels found in cigarette smoke. Non-smokers who are exposed to conventional cigarette smoke and e-cigarette aerosol absorb similar levels of nicotine.

In 2019, the Montana Legislature passed House Bill 413 which prohibits the use of e-cigarettes, vapes or .JUULs in public school buildings or on public school property.

Even though e-cigarettes, vaping and JUULing are not currently included in the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act, it can be implemented as a policy in your place of business. The more communities or business that include e-cigarettes in their smoke free policies, the more Montana’s will be protected from the potential dangers of all vaping aerosol.

So let’s celebrate the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act by being thankful for the right to breathe safe clean indoor air and to continually move forward with new or updated policy and procedures to ensure our friends, families, coworkers, loved ones and all community members are safe from all forms of second hand tobacco products.

For more information on the Montana CIAA, visit tobaccofree.mt.gov. For help quitting, call the Montana Tobacco Quit Line, a free service available to all Montanans who would like to quit using all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Calling the Quit Line is toll-free at 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit the website at QuitNowMontana.com to enroll. If you are currently a Montana resident but have an out of state area code, please use this number when calling the Montana Quit Line to receive benefits – 1-866-485-7848.

Montana has a new Quit Line just for youth called My Life My Quit. Kids we are vaping or JUULing most likely have a nicotine addiction. My Life My Quit provides a free addiction counselor for youth online, texting or by phone. And it’s all confidential. Check out the new website at mylifemyquit.com.

Call Jacklyn Damm, Tobacco Prevention Specialist, at the Richland County Health Department for more information, 406-433-2207.

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