Baltimore Co. to vote on mall smoking ban Council approval expected tonight

August 02, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

The Baltimore County Council will turn the anti-smoking campaign up a notch tonight, when it is expected to ban smoking in the common areas of all enclosed shopping malls and get its first look at legislation that would ban smoking on all county-owned property.

In the past year, state and county governments have banned smoking in all court facilities, the county detention center and in county office bathrooms -- the last refuge from a 1987 law banning smoking in most county public places.

The Hayden administration bill set for introduction tonight would extend the ban to county workers' private offices, which are often modular partitions that don't stop smoke.

County firefighters are expected to ask for an exemption from that comprehensive ban to allow firefighters to smoke in the engine rooms of firehouses.

"A fire station is almost like a guy's home," county Fire Chief Elwood H. Banister said last week. The bill that would affect firehouses won't be voted on until September.

Merreen E. Kelly, county administrative officer, said his staff will work with county health officials to offer workers help to stop smoking before the laws affecting their offices take effect.

The much-discussed bill banning smoking in malls, sponsored by four of the seven council members, is expected to pass easily and take effect

in mid-September.

Zed Smith, general manager of Westview Mall, said owners of the nine largest enclosed shopping centers in the county have agreed to back the proposal. Towson Town Center, the largest, imposed its own ban May 17.

"We view it as a public health issue rather than a business issue," Mr. Smith said.

Other malls supporting the bill are White Marsh, Owings Mills, Hunt Valley, Security Square, Golden Ring, Kenilworth and Eastpoint.

Dr. Penelope Scott, a pulmonary specialist at Church Hospital and an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told the council about the harmful effects of primary and secondary smoke at its work session last week.

She said cigarette smoke contains more than 200 poisons and 20 carcinogens, and that passive smoke inhalation is expected to be responsible for 400 lung cancer cases in Maryland this year, plus more than 200,000 infections in children nationwide.

The lecture did not convince people like Reina and Donald Leverton of Parkville, smokers who came to the work session to protest the mall bill. "I like to shop in malls and use restaurants there and I like my cigarettes," Mrs. Leverton told a generally unsympathetic council. "Smokers pay over $14 million a year in taxes -- where are you going to get that money?" she asked.

"We'll get it from the health side," quipped Council Chairman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-3rd, who said he has asthma and cannot tol


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erate smoke.

"I feel like it's against my rights," Mrs. Leverton said. "We want to be segregated. The malls are big enough. We pay our taxes, and we vote. Can't we have [smoking] areas?"

"Areas don't do it," Councilman William A. Howard IV, R-6th, replied.

The mall smoking ban would bring Baltimore County in line with neighboring jurisdictions. Howard County banned mall smoking last June. Anne Arundel County banned smoking in mall common areas early this year. Cranberry Mall in Carroll County has a ban.

County Councilman Melvin G. Mintz, D-2nd, who sponsored the 1987 anti-smoking law, is the prime mover behind the push for more restrictive laws.

None of the council members has moved to prohibit smoking in restaurants, and the new law would not prohibit smoking in mall restaurants, Mr. Mintz said.

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