Changes to Missoula's smoking ordinance are on hold - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Changes to Missoula's smoking ordinance are on hold

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MISSOULA -

Changes to Missoula's smoking ordinance are on hold after the City Council sent the plans back to committee.

The council is reviewing changes to the ordinance in accordance with the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act.  

If approved, the proposal would ban the use of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, indoors.

The discussion comes down to this: vape shop owners say vaping and smoking cigarettes are two very different things.

While city health officials argue vaping can damage the air quality in indoor areas.

Shannon Therriault, Director of Environmental Health in Missoula, said that vaping is becoming all too common for youth.

Therriault said that almost 50 percent of Montana high school students have tried vaping and 22 percent of high school students vape regularly. She said it has major health consequences.

"There's evidence that shows when people vape they still smoke cigarettes, but also this idea that vaping can lead to cigarette use later on. It still contains nicotine and it still leads to nicotine addiction, which is detrimental to somebody's health," said Therriault.

She also said that vapors add air pollution to indoor environments and people can inhale hazardous chemicals second-hand from the smoke.

Liberty Vapor Smoke Owner, Tommie Dobbs, argues vaping and tobacco should not be categorized together.

"If people check they will see that by law in Montana tobacco and vapor are not the same entity," said Dobbs.

She does support the proposed change to the ordinance that would give business owners the authority to choose whether vaping is allowed inside or within 25 feet of their building.

She said that it is important for vape shops to allow customers to smoke inside their stores and test their products because it is a part of the culture.

"We are a good support group. Most of us, all of us are ex-smokers. It's a group. We talk to each other about it. It's a lot of support that goes on," said Dobbs.

But Therriault said that health officials are concerned if vape shops are exempt from indoor smoking laws, shops next door or upstairs would be impacted by secondhand contaminants.

She added that it's hard to figure out where to draw the line to be fair to retailers.

But she said at the end of the day, the goal of the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act is to keep workers and customers of indoor businesses healthy.

"When the Montana Indoor Air Act was being discussed the question was, 'Should folks who work in bars and taverns be afforded the protection of the Clean Indoor Air Act, and should tobacco shop workers be afforded the protections in the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act?'" she says. "And the answer is, yes they should. And I think we are going to get there with vape shops too."

The public health and safety committee will continue to gather research as they work to find a solution.

If the new ordinance is passed, Missoula would be the ninth community in Montana to make this change.

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