George Lane  /  AP file
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, shown here in a file photo, said the ban will "protect children for generations to come."
updated 4/19/2005 1:00:52 PM ET 2005-04-19T17:00:52

Gov. Brian Schweitzer has signed into law a compromise no-smoking ban between public health groups and Montana tavern owners in “Marlboro Country.”

The prohibition on public smoking takes effect Oct. 1 for 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 commonsense 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 a delay for bars, the tavern industry also obtained a provision that prohibits local ordinances that are more strict for four years.

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

Over the years, Madison Avenue has used Montana as a backdrop in some of the Marlboro Man cigarette ads depicting rugged cowboys puffing on cigarettes while riding a fence line.

Dr. Richard Sargent of Helena, a longtime advocate of smoking bans, said other states were stunned to learn that “Marlboro Country” decided to ban smoking on such a scale. The development 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.”

Elsewhere, the North Dakota House sent Gov. John Hoeven an indoor smoking ban for restaurants, government buildings and most businesses on Monday, though the legislation is not as strict as many anti-smoking activists wanted.

The measure would exempt bars and allow motels to offer smoking rooms. It also allows smoking in rooms rented for private functions, if children are excluded, and at “a traditional American Indian spiritual or cultural ceremony.”

However, it would ban lighting up in the North Dakota Capitol’s smoking room, a tiny hideaway created when a former governor banned smoking in the building in 1990. The law could take effect Aug. 1.

Hoeven, a Republican, is likely to support the bill, said spokesman Don Canton. The Senate approved the measure last week.

“We’ll have to study it, but it looks to be close to what the governor has said he supports,” Canton said.

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