The Helena City Commission approved a resolution Monday, encouraging business owners to do more to reduce secondhand smoke in public areas.
The resolution calls on businesses to voluntarily take on additional smoke-free practices beyond what is required by current law. That could include creating outdoor smoke-free areas around their entrances.
The city of Helena and Lewis and Clark Public Health will provide resources to support those businesses, like signage for smoke-free areas. They will also work to educate the public.
“A more flexible resolution like this one empowers business owners to take ownership and enforcement of their policies and looks out for the general health and well-being of patrons as well as employees,” said Nate Wellington, a health educator with Lewis and Clark Public Health.
Last year, city leaders began discussing smoking regulations. The city, health leaders and business owners eventually formed a working group to come up with a consensus on the issue. This resolution came out of that cooperative work.
“When this first came up, the idea of a no-smoking area around businesses, I thought, ‘Boy, could really become contentious,’” said Cathy Burwell, president and CEO of the Helena Area Chamber of Commerce. “Everyone that’s involved made this such a collaborative process and recognized that there is an issue and that we need to address this. There’s no one who wants things to be better around their business than the business owner.”
This resolution only applies within Helena city limits. However, Bruce McCullough, president of the Tri-County Licensed Beverage Association, said his organization will encourage all 27 of its member taverns across Lewis and Clark County to take part. He said the association plans on designing its own “smoke-free” signage.