Cranberry Mall will restrict smoking to 2 areas Shopping center acts at own discretion

February 01, 1993|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

Westminster's Cranberry Mall appears to be the first enclosed shopping center in the state to restrict smoking without having been required to do so by local government.

The mall management plans to limit smoking to two designated areas, starting Feb. 12. Smoking will be permitted only in the Leggett court, a seating area outside Leggett department store, and in a section of the food court outside the Hair Cuttery.

The Howard County Council banned smoking in enclosed malls in 1992. In Montgomery County, the council imposed restrictions in 1990 that limited smoking to 20 percent of a "large indoor area" through which the public would not have to pass, effectively banning smoking in malls.

In Carroll, the county and Westminster city governments have remained silent on the issue. The mall is inside city limits.

Cranberry Mall appears to be the first in Maryland to restrict smoking without government intervention, said Christy Royster, a field service representative for the American Cancer Society who is working with the mall on implementing the change.

"Sometimes you have to do the right thing, even if it's not mandated by law," said Frank D. Meyer, the mall manager.

Mr. Meyer said the decision to restrict smoking was not prompted by the efforts of Debbie Frazier, a Westminster resident who several months ago launched a one-woman campaign to ban smoking at the mall.

He said the staff has received comments on both sides of the issue since the mall opened in 1987. His impression, Mr. Meyer said, is that the public supports restrictions.

"We just feel this is an issue where it is appropriate to be pro-active, especially in light of the recent findings relating to secondary smoke," he said.

He referred to an Environmental Protection Agency report last month that identified secondhand cigarette smoke as a carcinogen and estimated that it kills about 3,000 non-smokers a year.

Mrs. Frazier, whose request for legislation has bounced from the county commissioners to local General Assembly delegation members and back, said the mall's action "is a small step, but I don't know why they don't just make it non-smoking. It's a public place."

She said she felt frustrated recently upon learning from Del. Richard C. Matthews, chairman of the local General Assembly delegation, that the commissioners had not passed along her request for a local law.

Mrs. Frazier said Mr. Matthews told her that the deadline for submitting local bills has passed and that she would have to wait for the 1994 General Assembly session.

"I was furious, because I felt like I had written all those letters for nothing," she said.

Mayor W. Benjamin Brown of Westminster said he would not sponsor a city ordinance to restrict smoking in malls.

"I think it's a matter of the business people pursuing it," he said, adding that he would leave the decision to private business owners.

Cranberry Mall management plans to implement the smoking restrictions with help from the cancer society. Ms. Royster said she hopes to have at least 10 volunteers on hand to pass out stickers and balloons to children.

Adults will receive information explaining the mall's new rules and describing the dangers of smoking and how to quit.

Ms. Royster said the cancer society also hopes to have Mr. Butts, a "Doonesbury" cartoon character, on hand at the mall for the opening day.

The informational fliers will include comment cards for patrons to tell the mall staff what they think of the new smoking rules, said Kathi McAvoy, the mall's marketing director.

Mr. Meyer said reminders to smokers who light up in forbidden areas "will be friendly, but the rule will be enforced." Smokers will be asked to move to the smoking areas or to extinguish their cigarettes.

He said he does not expect trouble with compliance, because the mall has not experienced problems with the designated smoking areas in the food court that were adopted about two years ago.

Ms. McAvoy reported that if a violator refuses to comply after polite requests, the mall staff will treat the incident as disorderly conduct.

Mr. Meyer said he doubts any smoking incident would go that far, and he declined to describe how the mall deals with disorderly conduct.

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