Smoking: The end

March 06, 1995

Now that Gov. Parris N. Glendening has moved swiftly and wisely to put an end to the haggling over the ban on smoking in the workplace, the tobacco peddlers are trying an end run back to friendlier territory in the legislature. The governor's prompt decision to endorse the regulations protecting workers from inhaling other peoples' carcinogens caught the tobacco lobby off guard.

Leaders of the Senate and House, who should know better, are considering legislation to permit smoking in bars, restaurants and hotels, ostensibly to protect the state's tourist and convention business. That's a sham. There is no evidence that tough smoking rules divert tourism.

Why did the legislators wait so long before raising their spurious objections? The highly publicized regulations have been in the works for more than a year, and a key legislative committee approved them with minor revisions last June. What's happened since then is that the tobacco peddlers unexpectedly lost a court fight and are now desperately manipulating legislators like a bunch of marionettes.

The danger of second-hand smoke to innocent bystanders is well documented. There persists a myth that smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages have a synergistic effect. Recovered nicotine addicts who still enjoy their liquor can testify that is nonsense. It is remarkable how readily smokers and former smokers have adapted to bans on lighting up in private offices. Only the most anti-social smoker would light up in a non-smoker's home these days without asking permission.

As for the small taverns and restaurants Mr. Glendening may yet exempt, he might be justified in letting them install less expensive ventilating equipment in view of their size. But their employees are just as entitled to be protected as any other Marylander.

Legislative leaders should follow Mr. Glendening's lead and face the facts. Conspiring to inflict potentially harmful smoke on Marylanders, wherever they work, is not protecting the public or any segment of it. Lawmakers who say otherwise are simply helping the tobacco industry.

Fortunately the governor says he can be counted on to veto any legislative attempt to cripple the administrative regulation, which will go into effect late this month. The General Assembly has more important -- and more worthy -- business on its docket than zTC perpetuating the profits of the tobacco peddlers.

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