Lamb's smoking bill on target ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

February 10, 1993

Anne Arundel County Councilwoman Maureen Lamb should be prepared. In the next few weeks, she's going to be painted as a radical, far-fetched health nut for trying to put some far-reaching restrictions on smoking.

Already some of her colleagues are saying her anti-smoking bill is excessive. Almost every business organization in the county has registered opposition, saying economics matter more than breath. As usual, tobacco lobbyist Bruce Bereano -- one person for whom smoking truly is an economic issue because he makes a mint defending it -- has put in his two cents. He calls the bill "flawed from the get-go," an unnecessary government intrusion.

Spare us, please. Mr. Bereano and others who make money from tobacco use these same tired, bogus arguments against any measure to restrict smoking, no matter how innocuous.

While Mrs. Lamb's bill does not fall into that category, neither is it radical. The fact is, smoking as an acceptable activity is on the way out. Lawmakers everywhere are banning smoking for the simple reason that it kills people. Bills similar to Mrs. Lamb's -- which prohibits smoking on county property and limits it in specified public places and businesses ranging from restaurants to many retailers -- have been passed in Prince George's, Montgomery, Baltimore and Howard counties. Howard's law is more stringent than hers.

It's ironic to hear businesses whining about how much this bill would cost them. It doesn't have to cost them anything if they adopt no-smoking policies, as many businesses are doing. And the expense of separate smoking areas is minuscule compared to lawsuits for damages caused by second-hand smoke, which are bound to occur.

Mr. Bereano & Co. argue that everything from car phones to electromagnetic fields are suspected of posing health risks; why single out smoking? The answer is obvious. Smoking is not a suspected danger. Years of research by U.S. surgeons general, independent scientists and the Environmental Protection Agency have confirmed that cigarette smoke is poisonous to smokers and non-smokers, and to children in particular.

The smoking lobby buries its head in the sand and pretends none of this is true. Fortunately, some of our lawmakers are smarter than that.

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