Picture it: Opening Day of the baseball season, 1992. You tool your way to the brand new, old-fashioned ballyard hard by the Great Wall of Camden and hang a right into the parking lot. You're smoking.
An alarm goes off. A SWAT team shows up and its commander orders you to douse the cigarette. You are ordered out of the car, tossed over its hood and frisked. A pack of Pall Malls is confiscated, the car and trunk are searched for Nicotiana contraband. You are issued a stern warning and, after paying the $10 parking fee, are allowed to proceed.
Meanwhile, a friend, walking to the game, is halted as he enters Gate E-2. A pipe and stogie detector goes off and he is instructed to check the offending items.
This has been a dramatization.
In the political arena it's known as an attention-getter, a none too subtle grab for a little pub(licity).
House Bill 42, authored by Delegate Martin Madden, has no trouble qualifying under the above definition.
No sooner did Marty show up in Annapolis as a first-term legislator a couple of weeks ago when into the hopper went his rendition of the Clean Air Act.
The wording of his act concerning Tobacco Smoking in Camden Yards Stadium left a bit to be desired. It reads:
"For the purpose of prohibiting individuals and employees from smoking in Camden Yards Stadium except under certain circumstances; requiring certain persons to designate certain areas as designated smoking areas, post certain signs, and notify the police under certain circumstances . . ."
Marty certainly has this thing about the word certain, doesn't he? Anyway:
For the purpose of "requiring each ticket sold for an event at the Camden Yards Stadium to indicate whether the seat is located in a designated smoking area; prohibiting certain advertisements at the Camden Yards Stadium and on certain products; requiring the Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene to adopt certain regulations; providing a certain penalty; defining certain terms; and generally relating to smoking in Camden Yards Stadium."
Now anyone will certainly understand if you don't fully comprehend the meaning of those last 40 words or so.
The bill goes on to define Camden Yards Stadium as the entire 85-acre area bounded by Russell, Ostend, Camden and Howard streets and Interstate 395. Which ultimately will include parking lots, bus and light rail stations. Beclouding your lungs will be verboten in those locales also.
The Madden bill decrees that at least one seating section be designated for smoking, not to exceed 10 percent of the 46,833 available seats. This might not sit too well with a guy who lays out a few grand for choice seats along the third base line, trucking out to the upper deck in rightfield for a couple of quick drags.
And when there's a standing-room-only crowd, won't those smoking-only tickets be as coveted as, well, let's just say it might set up a very lucrative seller's or scalper's market outside.
Delegate Madden proves he's for the common man by suggesting that the no-smoking ban not be extended to the luxury boxes. He says, "If you want to spend $80,000 a year [for a skybox], you can smoke your head off as far as I'm concerned."
A popular sentiment in some quarters, no doubt, but something seems amiss banning smoking in the open air and allowing it to proceed in enclosed booths.
No problem, the inveterate smoker is probably thinking to himself right now, I can always duck into a restroom for a few puffs while out fetching a couple of "chillies."
Nyet, no portion of any restroom will be designated for smoking.
Hypothetically, let's say a guy can't help himself and, against his own better judgment, lights up and sneakily drags on a cig
hidden inside his fist, like Earl Weaver used to do in the Orioles' dugout.
The usher sees him. He can't order the guy to cease and desist or rout him. He must inform the manager, who, in turn, must witness the transgression before turning the matter over to a police officer.
(As soon as you saw the word manager, you probably thought, "Hey, doesn't Frank Robinson have enough trouble trying to figure out when to yank a pitcher, what's he care about some guy smoking up in the stands?")
"Manager," by the bill's definition, means the person who controls, governs or directs the activities in the Camden Yards Stadium.
Hmmm, how enthusiastic is a guy in charge of the whole operation, a guy ultimately responsible for everything going on at the multimillion-dollar facility, going to feel about slinking around and acting as a snitch for the gendarmes?
And how about on a raucus Friday night, when the stadium security detail is no better than even against the forces of alcohol, it is constantly summoned to serve an offender with notice that he runs the risk of a civil penalty of $100?
Those citizens who don't frequent ballgames, but hold out great hope that pro football returns to the city before the millenium probably are feeling little concern about HB 42 right now. Come the eventual return of the helmetheads, however, and all the above-stated rules will apply to them also. As any priest will tell you, a football game isn't a football game without a cigar.
No doubt Marty Madden's intentions are in the right place and a fan stuck next to three guys dragging on cheap cigars upwind needs relief. Such relief should be forthcoming in the form of enforceable rules and regulations. Hopefully, the General Assembly is aware matters of a more pressing nature face it.
HB 42 has been assigned to the Environmental Matters Committee, which figures to expedite the bill judiciously. Remember, committee members, no open burning. After all, you are Environmental Matters.