Baltimore County malls back smoking ban Bill would end exemption for shopping centers in September BALTIMORE COUNTY

July 01, 1993|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Staff Writer

A story in The Sun Thursday about proposed legislation that would ban smoking in common areas of Baltimore County's enclosed malls incorrectly identified one of the bill's two sponsors. The legislation is co-sponsored by councilmen Melvin Mintz, D-2nd, and Donald C. Mason, D-7th.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Seven large Baltimore County shopping malls are backing legislation that would snuff out smoking in September and put them in line with other regional shopping centers that have banned smokers from common areas.

The mall managers say they will support a County Council bill that would end the malls' exemption from the county's anti-smoking laws.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"The reason we're supporting it is the new findings regarding secondary smoke," said Samantha Ostertag, retail operations manager at Owings Mills Mall. "It does cause a potential hazard to customers, and we feel if all the malls join together, it

will be safer for customers."

The bill is scheduled for introduction Tuesday. If it passes on schedule and is signed by County Executive Roger B. Hayden, it would take effect Sept. 16.

The affected malls would be Westview, Security, Owings Mills, Hunt Valley, Golden Ring, White Marsh and East Point.

Baltimore County's largest shopping mall, Towson Town Center, voluntarily banned smoking in common areas May 17 and turned its ashtrays into planters. Other mall operators were initially reluctant to follow suit, fearing they would be at a competitive disadvantage unless all of them signed on.

The Cranberry Mall in Carroll County imposed a voluntary ban earlier this year. Smoking in the common areas of indoor shopping malls in Anne Arundel County was ended by legislation passed earlier this year, affecting the Annapolis and Marley Station malls.

In Howard County, a county ordinance has made it illegal since last June to smoke in any enclosed mall.

Smoking is allowed in common areas of Baltimore's Mondawmin Mall, according to security personnel, but is banned in the Rotunda.

"We're definitely in support of it," Lauri Altman, marketing director at the Golden Ring Mall, said of the Baltimore County legislation. "About a month ago we surveyed our shoppers, and 51 percent . . . were in favor of going smoke-free."

She and several other mall managers said they have asked the Towson Town Center management for advice on managing the ban.

The Baltimore County legislation is co-sponsored by Democratic Councilman Melvin Mintz of the 2nd District and Republican Councilman William A. Howard IV of the 6th District. It is scheduled for discussion July 27 and will be voted on Aug. 2. Mr. Hayden is expected to sign it.

Mr. Mintz, a former smoker, has for years tried to toughen the county's original anti-smoking legislation. Earlier exemptions for public restrooms were ended last December, and smoking in county office buildings will be banned Dec. 7.

Ending the exemption for the common areas of enclosed malls is a logical next step, Mr. Mintz said.

"It's not about convenience or comfort," he said. "It's about health. We all have the right to smoke, just like we all have the right to swing our arms. But that right ends when it affects someone else's health and well-being."

Two weeks ago, he met with mall managers to win their support.

They were eager to minimize their policing responsibilities, he said, and asked for language barring the creation of designated smoking areas. They also asked that the law take effect well before the Christmas shopping season.

David Nevins, an Owings Mills marketing consultant to the Westview Mall and others across the country, said the jury is still out on whether smoking bans attract customers or drive them away.

Mr. Nevins said, "Mall managers are trying to come up with every competitive edge they can. The question is, is [a smoking ban] a competitive edge that lures in customers or drives them away?

"This [Baltimore County] legislation is being so widely supported because it eliminates the risk any single mall has to take," he said.

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