County Malls Lax on Smoking Threat ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

April 27, 1993

The evidence is in: Tobacco fumes have been judged potentially lethal to smoker and non-smoker alike.

A growing body of scientific study has confirmed this finding. The most damning statistics appeared in a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It said "secondary smoke" annually causes 3,000 lung cancer deaths among non-smokers and up to 300,000 cases of bronchitis and pneumonia in children.

Politicians and merchants, as fearful of liability lawsuits as they are concerned about public health, have begun heeding the signals. More local laws are being passed to prohibit public smoking in many areas, even as more businesses are voluntarily restricting smoking on their premises.

The shopping mall, the modern version of Main Street, hasn't been immune to this trend. Officials of Towson Town Center, for example, just announced smoking will be banned in most sections of that Baltimore County mall starting May 17.

Their decision comes about a year after the Howard County Council prohibited smoking in public areas of the subdivision's enclosed malls. Officials of another major shopping center in the metropolitan area, Cranberry Mall in Westminster, imposed a smoking ban earlier this year without first being required to do so by government edict.

The two regional malls in Anne Arundel County, which has one of the state's worst cancer rates, must now play catch-up on this issue. Neither Marley Station nor Annapolis Mall restricts smoking in any way. Officials of both shopping centers are waiting to see what the County Council does with the anti-smoking legislation it has been mulling for months. The bill would prohibit smoking in banks, health-care facilities, museums, lecture halls and the common areas of shopping malls.

Even if the measure fails, the management of both malls ought to consider the smoking restrictions that many businesses have already put in place -- such as designated areas where smokers can light up without putting non-smokers at risk.

Smokers protest that such bans violate their rights. But in a democracy, one's right to a certain practice ends when that practice threatens another person's well-being. It's clear now that smoking harms non-smokers, not to mention the smokers themselves. These restrictions make good sense.

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