Orioles expected to ban smoking in some sections Team on Thursday to unveil park plans

January 05, 1993|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Staff Writer

The Orioles are expected to announce a plan later this week that will significantly restrict locations where fans will be permitted to smoke at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Team officials declined to discuss the plan in detail yesterday, saying that they'll wait for a ballpark news conference Thursday. But the new rules are expected to include an outright ban on smoking in at least some seating sections of the 48,041-seat ballpark.

The smoking restrictions have been devised by the Orioles, who have the right to set such operational policies at Camden Yards under their 30-year lease. But the move clearly meets with the approval of the ballpark's landlord -- the state of Maryland.

The lineup of dignitaries expected for the announcement includes a longtime supporter of such measures -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said the policy comes after careful study of the issue by Orioles management, including team president Larry Lucchino.

"I know they've been looking at what other clubs were doing. And several weeks ago, I was advised by Larry that they had developed a policy," Mr. Belgrad said.

The Orioles wouldn't be the only major league team that limits or bans smoking at the ballpark. In the American League, the only team to have banned smoking completely last year was the Oakland Athletics. The Orioles imposed no restrictions on smokers last year.

Until the new plan is made public, there will be a lots of questions about how it will work and who will be most affected. Among them: Will any fans be permitted to smoke in their seats? Will there be designated smoking areas for fans willing to leave their seats for a smoke?

And what about the roughly 27,500 Orioles season-ticket customers who paid for their seats without any knowledge of the coming restrictions? Will the team offer refunds to those who want them?

Watching closely will be Bruce C. Bereano, the high-profile Maryland lawyer-lobbyist whose clients include the Tobacco Institute.

Reached last night, Mr. Bereano said he was not aware of rules that would limit smoking at the ballpark. But he said, "If that's the case, I think it is very regrettable and unnecessary. It's an open-air stadium. The few times I've seen people smoking at the ballpark, the smoke went into the air."

Any restrictions should be carefully thought out and fair to smokers and non-smokers, Mr. Bereano said. For instance, he questioned whether the team could impose the ban on fans who watch the games from the ballpark's 72 luxury boxes. One of those suites is leased by Philip Morris, a leading manufacturer of cigarettes, the lobbyist said.

"Are they going to say to Philip Morris that it can't bring its own executives in to consume a product which it lawfully makes and sells? That would be strange," Mr. Bereano said.

This isn't the first move to limit smoking at the ballpark. Several attempts to force the Orioles to adopt a policy have come up short in the General Assembly in recent years.

Two years ago, Del. Martin G. Madden, R-Howard, introduced a bill that would have banned tobacco advertising at the ballpark and required 75 percent of seats to be non-smoking. The first year the bill was defeated, and last year it was withdrawn after the Orioles offered some concessions.

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