Council to vote on smoking bill


A final vote that would make Howard County the first Baltimore-area jurisdiction to ban smoking in all public places - including bars and restaurants - is scheduled at tomorrow night's County Council meeting.

The bill, sponsored by County Executive James N. Robey and west Columbia Councilman Ken Ulman, is expected to pass and would take effect in June 2007. It would make Howard the fourth Maryland county to ban smoking, joining Montgomery, Prince George's and Talbot counties, as well as Washington. Howard approved a law in 1996 requiring physically separate smoking sections in restaurants, with separate ventilation systems.

The bill would prohibit smoking in all public places, plus outdoors within 15 feet of a door or window to a building, except on Main Street in Ellicott City, and at some outdoor sporting and entertainment events.

Restaurant owners have opposed the measure, arguing that a total ban would hurt bar owners who cater to smokers. They also say that Howard's current law works well, giving nonsmokers and smokers a choice, but health advocates say there is no reason to tolerate second-hand smoke that can affect employees and patrons alike.

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