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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Smoking ban becomes law in Montana

Bob Anez Associated Press

HELENA – Gov. Brian Schweitzer signed a smoking ban into law Monday that is a compromise between public health groups and Montana tavern owners in “Marlboro country.”

The prohibition of public smoking will take effect Oct. 1 in all buildings and offices open to the public, but it will not apply to Montana’s 1,700 bars for another four years, a concession to the tavern industry.

“This is classic example of what can happen in Montana with common-sense people finding Montana common ground,” Schweitzer, a Democrat, said during a signing ceremony at the Capitol. “This will protect children for generations to come.”

In addition to the delay in implementation for bars, the tavern industry also obtained a provision that prohibits stricter local ordinances for four years.

Fines will range from a written warning for a first offense to $500 for a fifth violation.

Over the years, Madison Avenue has used Montana as a backdrop for some of the Marlboro cigarette ads depicting rugged cowboys puffing on cigarettes.

Dr. Richard Sargent of Helena, a longtime advocate of smoking bans, said other states were stunned to learn that “Marlboro country” had decided to ban smoking on such a large scale. That action in Montana may spur similar bans elsewhere, he said.

“In the end, this is a health issue, and we’re going to protect the health of the people of Montana,” Sargent said. “We finally got it done – and a lot sooner than we thought.”

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