Smokers in Anne Arundel County will have fewer places to light up after the County Council last night unanimously approved a measure that bans smoking in many public areas.
The measure, which takes effect in 45 days, mandates no-smoking areas in restaurants seating more than 75 patrons and businesses with more than 50 employees. It also bans smoking in banks, classrooms, lecture halls, auditoriums, health care facilities, public meeting rooms, museums, galleries, libraries and restrooms, among other places.
The bill's original sponsor was Councilwoman Diane Evans, who offered it in the hope of counteracting a stricter bill that was written by Councilwoman Maureen Lamb. Ms. Evans' business-friendly bill exempted hotels, restaurants and workplaces.
But Ms. Lamb withdrew her bill and successfully amended Ms. Evans' measure to include the provisions affecting businesses and restaurants. Still, the amendments were less stringent than provisions in Ms. Lamb's bill. So Ms. Lamb was able to persuade Council Chairman David G. Boschert to provide the deciding vote in support of the amendments.
Last night, Ms. Evans held her nose and voted for the measure. The Arnold Republican said that while it did not resemble the bill she introduced, "the public health demands this council pass a smoking bill now."
She added that she did not agree with the way in which the bill was amended, totally changing its focus. "But I do feel this bill is less onerous to the business community" than Ms. Lamb's original measure.
Council members George Bachman and Carl Holland, who co-sponsored Ms. Evans' bill, asked that their names be removed from the legislation because it did not resemble what they had originally supported. Still, both voted for the bill.
Bruce C. Bereano, an Annapolis lobbyist representing the Tobacco Institute that opposes the smoking limitations, told the council he was disgusted by its action in approving the legislation.
"Frankly, this is the sloppiest, most haphazard piece of legislation I've seen before this council in years," he said. "This legislation is really going to create tremendous havoc for businesses and restaurants in this county. . . . It's a very anti-business piece of legislation and it's regretable."
The bill hit a snag before last night's vote when County Attorney Judson P. Garrett Jr. sent a memo to Ms. Lamb, in response to her inquiry, that pointed out several inconsistencies in the bill. The most serious involved a problem in the wording of a provision in the bill that bans smoking in "a place of work with more than 50 employees" but exempts "a place of work with fewer than 50 employees."
"What about a place of work with 50 employees?" Mr. Garrett asked in his memo. The issue was resolved when the council put the legislative intent of the bill on the record, but council members said they planned to draft a subsequent bill to clear up any inconsistencies.
Later, Mr. Bereano said he was contemplating challenging the law in court. "The legislation is ripe for litigation. It's just a can of worms and it just shows the careless nature in which the legislation was passed. . . . The whole process has just been like the Keystone Kops."