The Rouse Co.'s objection to a proposed smoking ban at The Mall in Columbia is not based on economics, spokesman James D. Lano said.
"We're not saying this will result in a loss of a lot of business," Lano said at a County Council work session Monday night. "We're saying it will be much easier to deal with if there's a designated smoking area."
Lano, assistant general counsel at the Rouse Co., asked the council to amend a bill by C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, to ban smoking in enclosed malls. Lano favors an amendment that would eliminate smoking on the ground floor. Smoking areas in one-story malls would be based on a percentage of the total square footage.
Gray said he had discussedthe amendment with Lano earlier in the day and was bringing it before the council as a courtesy.
Darrel Drown, R-2nd, told Lano he agreed with earlier testimony from police chief James N. Robey that a total ban would be easier to enforce than a partial ban.
"I expect that in 10 years, smoking will be banned in all public places" nationwide, Drown said. "Do we want to take the lead in this?" To do so is "almost part of an educational tool," he said.
"I think Howard County is on the leading edge even with the amendment," Lano said. "We'renot espousing smoking. Ultimately, there is little doubt that smoking will be banned everywhere."
The Associated Press reported yesterday that a Pennsylvania polling organization found that 54 percent ofAmericans surveyed in a telephone poll said they favor a complete ban on smoking in public places.
Lano said he thinks smokers here aren't ready for a total ban and will ignore it if one is attempted. "There is no question, the overwhelming number of (smokers) are going to smoke" no matter how the law is written, Lano said.
"Smoking is a very strong addiction," he said. "If there is a total ban, people will be smoking everywhere" in the mall.
The only place they could go to smoke would be the parking lot, and they would not interrupt their shopping to go there, he said. But smokers could be directed to designated areas and would smoke there only, Lano said.
Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, disagreed. "I don't think a designated smoking area is a good idea," he said.
Council Chairman Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, said he and his youngest child had taken an informal count of smokers at the mall for an hour this past weekend.
"We counted only seven smokers -- all in the designated smoking area," he said.
Farragut said he would introduce the Lano amendment if Gray does not. Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, said she would co-sponsor the amendment.
Immediately after last week's public hearing on the bill, Gray said he wouldnot accept Lano's compromise. Gray seemed less certain of that afterthe work session Monday night.
"Since this is a new proposal, I will have to seriously consider it," he said.
The council will voteon the bill April 6.