No butts: smoking ban in schools absolute

June 30, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

You might consider it too much trouble to smoke if you had to get in your car and drive off your company's property to have a cigarette instead of ducking out the front door for a few minutes.

But if you're an Anne Arundel County school employee, or a visitor to school grounds, that's just what you'll have to do if you want a cigarette starting tomorrow. That's when a 24-hour-a-day ban on smoking on school grounds, or in school buildings and vehicles, takes effect.

At the same time, a county law banning smoking in businesses with more than 50 employees also goes into effect. The new law also will mandate nonsmoking areas in restaurants that seat 75 or more patrons, and ban smoking in public areas such as malls, banks and auditoriums.

As for school employees, well, some are taking the news better than others.

School spokeswoman Jane Doyle concedes she's a "die-hard smoker," but prompted by the ban on smoking even outside of the central offices, she says she plans to quit.

"I'm trying to look at the positive side," she said. "I've been trying to cut back, knowing this was coming. I rarely can get away from the office anyway, so I often go 10 or 11 hours a day without smoking. I just have to figure out how to get through the rest of the day without smoking."

Other employees, she says, are disgruntled. "I have been hearing a lot of creative solutions, including walking far enough to walk off school system property," Ms. Doyle said. "And I've been seeing a lot of people wearing nicotine patches."

The county teachers union objected to the ban, saying the issue should be negotiated as part of a contract.

"I do wonder about the school board adopting a policy that's unenforceable," said Charles LoCascio, executive director of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County.

Unlike the ban enacted by the state Board of Education, the county's prohibition on smoking extends to school grounds even during hours when school is not in session, said Ron Peiffer, a spokesman for the state Department of Education.

"The state board felt it would be hard to enforce a smoking ban on school property 24 hours a day," he said. "You can't just run into the stands during a football game and tell a parent to put out a cigarette. It's hard to enforce. But some school systems have done that."

Ms. Doyle said the true test of the success of the Anne Arundel school smoking ban won't come until fall, when after-school sports begin and community groups sponsor activities at schools after hours.

"I don't know how easy it will be to enforce," she said. "Smoking is an addiction, and it's going to be hard for some people."

But she said the ban "is the right thing to do."

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