Last week, the weekly Baltimore Farmers Market & Bazaar put a no-smoking ban into effect. This market has been around for 34 years, selling locally produced goods at stalls set up under the Jones Falls Expressway. On a typical Sunday, the crowds are large, the aisles tightly packed with arugula eaters. Banning smoking there is a no-brainer. You wonder why it took so long.
A market that sells cheese made from the milk of Garrett County goats, bacon from hormone-free Carroll County hogs, and heirloom apples from Western Maryland is not likely to be a gathering spot for people who want their lungs filled with tobacco smoke (whether or not the tobacco was locally grown).
Beyond the matter of not fitting in, there is the paramount issue of health. Inhaling tobacco smoke, primary or secondary, is a hazard. As is well known by now — but still worth repeating — cigarette smoke contains an array of toxic chemicals, from lead to cyanide, and can cause or contribute to lung diseases, heart ailments and cancer. Children are often at greatest risk.
Even in open areas, people need to be at least 23 feet away to fully escape the effects of smoking, according to a 2005 University of Maryland study. That kind of spacing is rarely possible at outdoor venues, and that is one reason why an increasing number of communities are banning or restricting smoking at al fresco events. As this page has noted, Bethany Beach, Del., has been smart enough to ban smoking on the beach, a family-friendly move that the civic leaders of Ocean City have unfortunately not been willing to follow thus far.
Some outdoor venues, such as Oriole Park at Camden Yards, have restricted smoking to designated areas, while Towson University has banned smoking anywhere on its campus . Good for them.
Smoking is not a right; it is a bad habit, and a tough one to kick, as no doubt the 27 percent of the adults in Baltimore who smoke can attest.
However, while it makes sense to spread the smoking ban to more outdoor venues, there is no need to treat smokers like pariahs. Life is full of contradictions. Owners of organic restaurants and chefs with fabled palates have been known to indulge in Camels. Then there is that couple living in the White House. She is growing organic vegetables, and he, we hear, is still trying to quit smoking.
Love the smoker, hate the smoke.