Dr. Michael Dennis


If there was something you could do to help prevent people from getting heart disease, cancer, asthma, or a number of other diseases would you do it?

The RiverStone Board of Health, Yellowstone County’s public health governing body, considers that question and many others to support and advance the RiverStone Health mission to Improve Life, Health, and Safety.

For the past year, the board has studied the effects of secondhand smoke from traditional tobacco products, like cigarettes, and an array of new devices, like electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) or e-cigarettes, with an eye on strengthening Montana’s Clean Indoor Air Act.

In strengthening the CIAA, the board has proposed Rules and Regulations for Clean Indoor Air, Rule 7 which, if adopted, would prohibit the indoor use of ENDS. The Rule would also require smokers of traditional tobacco products and ENDS to be at least 30 feet away from entryways, ventilation systems and windows of public places.

Speak up Wednesday

On Wednesday, the board will hold a public hearing to gather input regarding proposed Rule 7. The hearing will begin at 5 p.m. at RiverStone Health in the first floor conference rooms in the Lil Anderson Center, 123 S. 27th St.

In 2005, The Montana Legislature enacted the Clean Indoor Air Act to protect people who do not smoke from the negative impacts of secondhand smoke and thirdhand smoke, which is the residue left on clothing, furniture and bedding. There is no question that exposure to smoke from tobacco products is harmful to smokers and non-smokers alike. Emerging research also indicates the aerosol from vaping ENDS products is potentially harmful to non-users.

E-cigarette concerns

The proposed Rule requires a 30-foot, smoke-free zone around public buildings. This is intended to protect people inside from secondhand smoke or aerosol entering buildings through doorways, windows and ventilation systems.

The rationale for the rule acknowledges research evidence that the aerosol exhaled from ENDS is not harmless water vapor. Instead, it contains potentially harmful chemicals, such as nicotine, and a variety of toxic, even carcinogenic chemicals, as well as microscopic fragments of metals.

Initiatives that effectively separate non-smokers from tobacco smoke have been shown to reduce heart attack rates, lung disease, including lung cancer, and protect non-smokers from other debilitating illnesses. A number of studies are underway examining the long-term health effects of secondhand aerosol. Until exhaled vapor has been proven not to be harmful, the World Health Organization recommends including vaping products in clean indoor air policies.

Tobacco's toll

All of us bear the cost of those who choose to use some form of tobacco. Each year, 1,600 Montanans die because of smoking. And the annual health care costs in Montana directly attributable to smoking amounts to $440 million. Data suggest that 19,000 Montanans under the age of 18 will die prematurely from smoking. The lives lost and monetary costs are too high. By adopting the proposed rule, we have an opportunity to lessen those impacts.

The RiverStone Board of Health is vitally interested in public comment regarding the Rule and encourages all interested parties to attend the hearing on Thursday.

Additional information about the hearing and answers to frequently asked questions are available on the RiverStone Health website: https://riverstonehealth.org/

Michael Dennis, PhD, chairs the RiverStone Board of Health, Yellowstone County’s public health board.