ANNAPOLIS — A Carroll delegate plans to introduce today a proposal more moderatethan his past efforts to protect non-smokers' rights, but he still expects tobacco and business lobbyists to blow smoke against it.
Delegate Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, is the primary sponsor of a bill that would require supervisors of certain public places to designate smoking and non-smoking areas. The bill also is intended to preserve smokers' rights.
The bill, which would not set specific standards or space requirements for the designated areas, would be applied to restaurants with a seating capacity of at least 50 people, retail stores with seven ormore full-time employees, auditoriums, indoor arenas and enclosed shopping malls, such as Westminster's Cranberry Mall.
Maryland law currently regulates smoking only in retail stores with 20 or more full-time employees.
The proposal is so moderate, said Elliott, that opposition could come only from interests bent on rejecting any type of policy protecting non-smokers.
"It leaves all the latitude up to the good judgment of the proprietors," said Elliott, whose more-demanding no-smoking proposals were killed in committee in 1988 and 1989. "If (lobbyists) come in opposing this -- and I don't doubt they will -- they will also oppose apple pie and motherhood.
"This is as reasonable as I can get it. It's modeled to a great extent on Virginialaw, and Virginia is the tobacco capital of the U.S."
Representatives from restaurants, hotels and The Tobacco Institute have opposed Elliott's previous measures, which outlined rigorous standards for an"acceptable smoke-free area."
Elliott said he expects support from numerous medical organizations.
The proposal would require supervisors to "take into consideration the nature of the use and the size" of the public place when designating smoking and non-smoking areas.The bill would prohibit supervisors from designating the entire establishment as a smoking area, or creating such a large area that "reasonable non-smoking areas . . . are not provided."
To the "extent practicable," it requests supervisors to designate smoking areas separate from those used normally by the public, and to use existing ventilation systems and physical barriers to minimize the permeation of smoke into non-smoking areas.
The legislation would require restaurant owners to designate non-smoking areas "sufficient to meet customerdemand." It would not apply to workplaces under certain circumstances, bars, private functions and hospitals.
Elliott, who recruited 16 co-sponsors, said medical findings have made clear that involuntarysmoking, or "second-hand smoke," has adverse impacts on the health of non-smokers. Several medical studies, cited by the U.S. Surgeon General's office, have shown an association between non-smokers' exposure to tobacco smoke and the development of lung cancer.
The old argument that smokers' rights should not be infringed upon is no longer valid, Elliott said.
"We have to consider not just the rights of smokers to smoke a legal substance, but the rights of non-smokers to breathe clean air," said Elliott. "There's a distinction now because science has caught up."
The bill includes no provisions for enforcing the policy. The only penalty stipulated is a $25 civil fine forsupervisors who fail to post signs indicating smoking and non-smoking areas.