Shop 'Til You Drop -- Without Smoke HOWARD 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 recent report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which 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. An increasing number of 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 U.S.A., has not been immune to this trend. The managers of Towson Town Center, for example, just announced smoking won't be permitted in most sections of that Baltimore County mall beginning May 17.

Their decision comes about a year after the Howard County Council prohibited smoking in public areas of this county's enclosed shopping malls.

Restricting public smoking is a pet cause of Councilman Vernon Gray, the author of last year's mall legislation as well as a forthcoming council bill that would ban smoking in all workplaces. If passed, the new measure would give Howard County the toughest anti-smoking laws on the East Coast.

At the Columbia Mall, an official there says the restrictions in place since last June haven't had much of a negative or positive impact. It's business as usual.

And should anyone light up in the mall, the reason generally is ignorance of the prohibition. A polite reminder tends to be enough to make smokers stop puffing.

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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