Gallatin Co. bans indoor vaping, e-cigs from public spaces
A decision was made Thursday morning by the Gallatin County Board of Health which set new rules for electronic smoking devices.
The new rule comes as an amendment to the way the county observes the state's Clean Indoor Air Act, which banned cigarette smoking from public spaces in 2005. It will now include vapes and e-cigarettes.
The board of health cited many reasons including the rise of vaping among teens and the unknown health effects of vapors.
Vape users will tell you vaping is not the same as cigarette smoking.
People like Brett Myers, from Freedom Vapes, used vaping as a way to quit smoking. Myers says he hasn't had a cigarette in years.
"I just have 100,000 times more energy -- that is the main thing that hit me the most. I had the energy to go do things with my daughter, I don't have to stop somewhere, have a cigarette and have people worrying about the smell or where the butt is going to land," he said.
The new rule leaves vape businesses with new problems. They say they rely on a "try before you buy" business model, and this amendment could adversely affect their business.
"When you walk into a bar, you know people are going to be drinking in there. When you walk into a casino you know people are going to be gambling in there -- it's the same thing," said Freedom Vapes owner Ron Marshall.
"I'm not going to hand someone a device and tell them to go out into the street and try it; that's just wrong," he added.
Violations to the new rule are considered misdemeanors and can carry fines under Montana Code, which Gallatin County Health Officer Matt Kelley says is in effect immediately.
The fines can range from $25 to $100 for an individual and $300 to $500 for businesses after repeated violations within a three-year period.
Marshall says he's considering suing the county.
"It was supposed to be on the Clean Indoor Air Act, and what we heard in there was other issues other than the Clean Indoor Air Act. This a decision that should be made by the state legislature, not the health board," he said.