This is a hell of a convoluted story. It’s too complicated to tell the whole story here, so I’ll sum up … It’s a city/county health department fighting the courts, owner of some Great Falls, Montana bars and a citizens’ group has gotten in the middle of it. It’s all over things called “smoke shacks.”
I only know of one bar locally that has one of these “smoke shacks” (Another one has some shelter in an alley behind the bar, but that’s different).
Under Montana law, bar owners could install a “smoke shack” in their bars. It’s usually a really small room, with a few video gambling machines, completely cut off from the rest of the bar. So, if you really want to smoke inside and play video poker or whatever, you kind of get shut off alone in these little rooms.
The owners of a bunch of casinos built these smoke shacks, but then received notices from the city and county that they were violating the state’s clean air act. The bar owners finally filed suit over it. The city and county health department requested an injunction against the smoking shelters and lost.
According this article, the judge ruled that the health department “took a ‘kaleidoscope of ever-shifting interpretations,’ concerning smoking structures in Cascade County, and that the board failed to adopt a coherent and logical interpretation of the Clean Indoor Air for bars and casinos in Cascade County.”
So… it gets more convoluted, because now a citizens’ group has gotten involved on the side of the city and the county, mad that these bars in Great Falls have found loopholes in the Clean Air act.
One of the strangest parts of this article is an interview with a former smoker/gambler:
Doug Richardson watched the tavern industry change from a gaming machine in the Palace Casino.
He was there before the law, when the law was implemented and today after the smoking shelters were built.
He smoked like any other gambler, until he was diagnosed with emphysema.
Now whenever he’s around smoke, whether it’s someone smoking a cigarette outside or if he’s near a backyard fire pit, his lungs act up and he has to use a rescue inhaler.
“These rooms have at least cured that as far as coming into places where people are smoking outside,” Richardson said. “They should build rooms like this. It takes the smoker away from people and into their own zone.”
Richardson was playing a game at the Palace Casino, adjacent to one of the Palagis’ smoke lounges, and he said on any given day the smoking room is full and there’s not a hint of smoke inside the main facility.
Whoa, the guy is dying of emphysema and he needs an inhaler if he’s around cigarette smoke, but I give him credit for being so tolerant toward smokers.
Anyway, it’s a big honkin legal mess … and headed to court, if not the State Legislature.
Personally, I’m not worked up about it too much, but it’s annoying to me when bars try to find these loopholes and just don’t deal with the fact that smoking bans are the future.