The Butt Stops Here

Is the state’s no-smoking law lighting up creativity?


As Montana bars dealt with their first smoke-free weekend since the state’s indoor smoking ban went into effect, ingenuity ruled. In Missoula, according to a great piece by Michael Moore in the Missoulian, the Rhino Bar gave smokers their very own place to light up: a Butt Hutt, created by Dave Golden of Well Done Welding and Jim Bell, a general contractor. Moore describes the hut as a 4-by-8-foot “metal smoking dugout” in the alley behind the Rhino in Missoula.

The no-smoking laws spark the type of debate that never seems to get extinguished. Pro-smokers argue that the bans hurt bars and restaurants. On the other hand, scores of studies show that exposure to secondhand smoke hurts the economy far more, causing heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses that exact huge tolls.

In Montana, meanwhile, the ban is apparently inspiring some creative new developments. In Great Falls, the City-County Health Department encouraged people to go to bars—to show their support for the new smoke-free environments, according to KFBB TV. (Rarely do health departments urge people to bar hop, but hey, non-smoking laws seem to be heralding a new day.)

In downtown Choteau, the popular Antler Bar accommodated smokers with private digs in what was formerly a garage in the back of the bar. The new light-up zone, complete with garage-like ambiance, includes picnic tables, heaters, and plenty of ash trays.

Other bars will almost certainly be devising plans and smoking spots of their own in the coming months. ( would love to hear about the solutions you’re seeing out there.)

In the meantime, here’s other news and views as Montana heads into its first smoke-banned work week.

— According to two medical journals—Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, and Journal of the American College of Cardiology—cities in the U.S. and abroad that have banned indoor smoking in public places have experienced an average of 17 percent fewer heart attacks in the first year of the ban, compared to cities that allowed such smoking. In subsequent years, the smoke-free towns had an average 26 percent decline in heart attacks, compared to theircigarettes online brethren.

— Thirty eight states and the District of Columbia now have local laws that require 100 percent smoke-free workplaces, restaurants or bars, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. To see a list of communities with smoking bans, plus nifty maps, click here.

— The 13 states without general smoking bans are: Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

— In 1975, Minnesota became the first state to ban smoking in public spaces. California followed suit in 1998. (For a handy recap of anti-smoking actions in recent decades, click here.)

— What really got the smoking bans rolling? In 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General published “The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke,” a study that said “there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.” People exposed to it increase their risk of developing heart disease or lung cancer by up to 30 percent, the report concluded.

— Montana’s ban took effect Oct. 1 because of the 2005 Montana Clean Air Act, which set a deadline by which the state would reduce exposures to secondhand smoke in public places.


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