January 21, 2007

THIS WEEK'S ISSUE: -- Seeking to build momentum for a statewide smoking ban in bars and restaurants, Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold has proposed prohibiting smoking at county establishments as a way of promoting public health and boosting the local economy.

An initial violation would carry a fine of $500 for the establishment; a second offense would result in a $1,000 fine. Smokers could also be penalized. Such a ban would apply throughout Anne Arundel County, including in Annapolis, but the regulations would not apply to private clubs.

Leopold, a melanoma survivor, acknowledged that the timing of his announcement - on the opening day of the General Assembly session - was aimed at encouraging legislators to pass a statewide ban.

Montgomery, Prince George's, Talbot, Charles and Howard counties have enacted such bans, and Baltimore officials have been considering such a move.

The chairman of the Anne Arundel County Council said he does not plan to introduce Leopold's measure, which would be required for it to be considered, until after Maryland lawmakers take up the issue statewide.

Should Anne Arundel County, or the state, ban smoking in bars and restaurants?

Ban is unfair to businesses

A smoking ban would be unfair to local businesses.

First and foremost, the fines would be paid by the establishment, not the individual who is actually breaking the proposed law. That's ridiculous.

What happens when someone gets caught smoking at a county or state building? We fine ourselves and increase taxes? Sounds like a revenue generator to me. That will surely boost the local economy - thousands of dollars in fines owed for another individual's actions.

The other problem with this ban is it's going to lead to people standing and smoking outside of entrances to affected buildings. This will create noise and possibly unruly situations at the bars and taverns, where most security is inside. Yes, the neighbors to local establishments will be getting good nights' sleep, now that half of a bar's patrons are smoking and conversing outside.

Private clubs would be excluded from this ban - we wouldn't want the campaign contributors to have to stand outside, in the cold rain to enjoy their cigars, would we?

I am not a smoker. I don't care if they have to stand in rain to smoke or are sitting next to me. If the smoke bothers me, I leave.

Kevin W. Geisler Pasadena

The writer is manager of Summers Tavern in Pasadena.

Idea ignores the Constitution

What authority does the Anne Arundel or Maryland government have that can regulate smoking? When did we as voters and taxpayers give this authority?

No matter, they do what they please and damn the Constitution.

Welcome to the People's Republic of Maryland. Check your tobacco, guns and copy of the Constitution at the border.

Paul R. Flanagan Shady Side

County has more important matters

County Executive John Leopold's efforts to ban smoking in bars/restaurants while exempting "private clubs" is another diversion from the task of addressing Anne Arundel taxpayer priorities.

Mr. Leopold spent 16 years waving signs on Anne Arundel highways asking for votes. His political literature espoused his leadership and problem-solving skills. He pledged action on taxpayer priorities: education, growth management and bay pollution.

Instead he fragments the Land Use Department and serves voters leftovers from his legislative agenda.

How about requiring the posting of building permits on all new construction?

Is the Lee Airport property conservancy agreement, which will have a major impact on South County development and future of the airport, really being honored?

Why are home invasions on the rise in the county?

Mr. Leopold's proposed ban is a smokescreen (pardon the pun) and misdirection of valuable staff time and taxpayer dollars.

Maryellen O. Brady Edgewater

Smoking ban is a health imperative

Smoking should be banned at all indoor establishments.

The businesses will not suffer as much as they think they will. It is a health issue, and businesses should be more concerned about their customers' and employees' health in reference to smoking.

Mrs. C. Donaldson Millersville

The ban would protect children

Smoking should be banned in Anne Arundel County and the state in bars and restaurants to protect innocent children who are sitting in the restaurants with their parents and do not have a voice on this subject.

I have seen the effects of smoking as a child of a parent who died of lung cancer at the age of 60.

Children as well as adults are very much affected by secondhand smoke in more ways than one. As a volunteer for the ACS Look Good Feel Better program in Anne Arundel County (a program designed to help women deal with cancer), I have also experienced firsthand how many women in our community have bravely faced their personal battle with lung cancer.

Sadly, we are seeing younger women every month at our sessions. I hope the chairman will reconsider Leopold's measure.

Cathy Olson Crownsville

Smoking ban would protect lives

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