City bans smoking at the Baltimore Farmers' Market

Prohibition will not extend to other outdoor spaces in Baltimore, officials say

  • People check out the offerings at the Baltimore Farmers' Market Sunday. The city announced Wednesday that smoking would not be permitted at the weekly market.
People check out the offerings at the Baltimore Farmers'… (Steve Ruark, Special to…)
April 06, 2011|By Erik Maza, The Baltimore Sun

Smokers, step away from those cantaloupes.

Starting this Sunday, the Baltimore Farmers' Market & Bazaar will be smoke-free, the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts announced Wednesday.

It's the office's attempt to promote healthful living in the city and one more measure to curb smoking in the state, which already has the fourth-lowest percentage of adult smokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This declaration was made so that farmers and patrons can have a clean environment," said BOPA Executive Director Bill Gilmore in a statement. In that statement, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot also expressed support.

While New York City recently extended a citywide smoking ban to include popular outdoor areas, the Baltimore promotions office, which also produces Artscape and the Baltimore Book Festival, said the ban applies only to the market and not to its other events.

Tracy Baskerville, a spokeswoman for the promotions office, was noncommittal about future plans. Like a spokesman at the mayor's office, she said there are no plans to extend the ban to other outdoor spaces at this time.

Barbot said she hopes other farmers' markets will follow suit with their own smoking bans.

The Baltimore Farmers' Market, located on Saratoga Street between Holliday and Gay streets under the Jones Falls Expressway, is in its 34th year and is one of the state's largest farmers' markets. As many as 100 farmers, craftspeople and food vendors sell their wares there every Sunday. This year, the market started last Sunday and runs through Dec. 18, typically from 7 a.m. until noon.

Baskerville said the idea to ban smoking there came out of a discussion last week. She said there had been no complaints about smoking there in the past.

She also said it was made in conjunction with Rawlings-Blake's efforts to promote a more healthful city. Last year, the mayor and the health department collaborated on a five-day public health awareness campaign called "Health City Days."

In Maryland, the Cigarette Restitution Fund, established in 2000 to allocate funds from a nationwide tobacco settlement, has helped the state create programs to help smokers quit and prevent young people from taking up the habit.

The decade-long effort has been successful; the state's percentage of smokers — 14.9 percent, or more than 640,000 adults — is the fourth-lowest in the country, according to the CDC.

Smoking in Baltimore is significantly higher, though. Twenty-seven percent of city adults smoke, according to the Baltimore Health Department, citing a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation published this year.

Smoking is banned indoors in Baltimore, the result of the statewide Clean Indoor Air Act passed in 2007. That policy is enforced in the city by the Health Department through routine inspections and upon complaints, a spokeswoman for the department said.

Some outdoor facilities also ban smoking.

At Oriole Park, smoking is prohibited except at designated areas, according to a ballpark spokeswoman.

In 2009, Towson University became the state's first four-year college to ban smoking.

But the smoking ban at the farmers' market is unusual, said Bernie Price, who sits on the policy board for the national Farmers' Market Coalition and is the co-director of Freshfarm Markets, which runs 11 markets in the Maryland-D.C. region.

At Freshfarm markets, vendors are asked not to smoke but customers are free to do so, she said. She hasn't heard of any other markets that have banned smoking.

One place that does is the Olney Farmers' and Artists' Market in Montgomery County.

Price said bans on pets are more commonplace. Dogs have been banned from the Baltimore market for 10 years because of health codes, Baskerville said.

The smoking ban would be self-policed. Baskerville said smokers would have to leave the market to smoke because there would be no designated smoking areas.

Ed Bloom, a chef who operates the restaurant Ethel and Ramone's stand at the market, supports the ban. He said it would make the market more family-friendly.

"There's a lot of kids running around there, and we want to have more of them and more families," he said." If taking out smoking is the way to do that, I'm all for it."

erik.maza@baltsun.com

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