Bill would limit smoking to 10 percent of new park

January 19, 1991|By Mark Hyman

Del. Martin G. Madden admits he occasionally fires up a cigar, usually at the end of a late-night poker game. But he doesn't smoke in public places, and he doesn't think others who do have the right to blow their fumes wherever, and on whomever, they please.

So, Madden is asking the Maryland General Assembly to assure the rights of non-smokers at the new Camden Yards baseball park. He's sponsoring legislation that would permit smoking in only 10 percent of seats at the 46,833-seat park and ban advertisements for tobacco of all types.

The bill faces an array of obstacles -- most importantly, the ballpark lease gives the Baltimore Orioles the right to address seating issues, including smoking sections -- but the Republican from Howard County is optimistic.

"This isn't taking away anyone's rights. There will be designated smoking areas," Madden said. "But we have a chance to set a model for the nation. Sports is the most wholesome outlet for our youth. With a new stadium, we can say to our kids that smoking and sports don't go together."

Madden has similarly negative thoughts about cigarette ads that appear on billboards and flash on electronic scoreboards inside many ballparks. "I don't want the background for a sports game to be an advertisement for tobacco," the first-term delegate said.

The Orioles have indicated that some limitations are likely at the new ballpark, particularly with regard to seating. There are doubts whether the General Assembly should be involved in placing them, however.

"I'm not going to act as attorney for the authority, but my view is that this matter appropriately should be referred to the Orioles," said Maryland Stadium Authority chairman Herbert J. Belgrad. "It should not be in the form of a bill before the General Assembly."

The Orioles are expected to move into the Camden Yards ballpark for Opening Day of the 1992 season. But Bob Aylward, Orioles vice president for business affairs, said team officials are working up a "complete review" of the smoking policies of many sports teams, which vary widely, he said. One of the most restrictive policies will go into effect next season in Oakland, Calif., where the Athletics begin a ban on all smoking at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum. The Orioles currently don't place any restrictions on smokers.

This week, Aylward said he hadn't talked with Madden. But he said: "This is a question we have been looking at before this bill was made known to us. We're doing a complete review of what other baseball teams, other sports teams, are doing. We're trying to formulate a policy in the next couple of months."

Madden's bill would restrict smoking at the baseball ballpark and, if one is built, a football stadium at Camden Yards. It would require that at least one section in the sports stadiums be put aside for use by smokers and sets a $100 penalty for smoking outside those areas. The smoking ban wouldn't apply to bars or sky boxes.

"If you want to spend $80,000 a year [the approximate rent of some sky boxes], you can smoke your head off as far as I'm concerned," Madden said.

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