Signs banning smoking going up

Starting today at parks, playing fields, they say: `Tobacco-Free Zone'

Anne Arundel

October 14, 2003|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County recreation and health officials will unveil today the first of 500 "Tobacco-Free Zone" signs to be posted at county parks and fields.

"If you can't smoke at Redskins stadium, if you can't smoke at Camden Yards, if you can't smoke at Ravens stadium, why should you be able to smoke at Little League games?" asked Dennis Callahan, the county's director of recreation and parks.

Since last month, the county has prohibited smoking in restrooms, concession areas, playgrounds or pools at its more than 300 parks and fields, including dog parks. The recreation department has also banned use of tobacco products within 100 yards of any organized sporting event or concert, Callahan said.

The county's seven-member recreation advisory board unanimously approved the ban during the summer.

Callahan said that over the years he has received calls from parents complaining that their asthmatic children were having trouble breathing at sporting events.

He said he proposed the policy change to County Executive Janet S. Owens, a smoker, and that she told him to implement it.

"It's good role-modeling for kids not to see adults smoking in public places," said Kari Appler, project director for Smoke Free Maryland, a coalition of public health groups. "This is the wave of the future that's happening around the country, but it's relatively new to Maryland."

In 2001, Carroll County became the first Baltimore-area county to make the sidelines at its youth sporting events smoke-free. The Carroll County commissioners voted to ban the use of tobacco products within 50 yards of a public or private playing field where children are playing organized sports.

Anne Arundel will post about 500 of the metal signs at its parks. They will be paid for by the county Health Department and the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's "Smoking Stops Here" effort, which is funded by tobacco lawsuit settlement money, officials said. The cost has not been determined.

One of the signs will be unveiled during a media event at 11 a.m. today at Kinder Farm Park in Millersville.

Callahan said he has received positive reaction to the change. His department hasn't had to enforce it.

If it does, a county park ranger will ask a tobacco user to stop. Any offender who refuses will be asked to leave the park. If that fails, the police will be called.

Callahan said he doesn't expect that to happen. A friend told Callahan recently that he had lit a cigarette at a game, only to have the children yell at him to stop.

"The No. 1 enforcement," Callahan said, "is peer pressure."

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