Harford to ban smoking on county government property

November 29, 2011|AEGIS STAFF REPORT

Harford County government says it plans to impose a complete smoking ban on its properties, owned or leased, including all indoor and outdoor parks and recreation facilities that are used by hundreds of thousands of people annually.

The proposed ban will involve all tobacco products, not just smoking materials, and will include garages, parking lots and roads, according to the proposed rule and regulation the county circulated Monday. County-owned or leased vehicles will also be subject to the ban.

The Harford County Department of Administration will conduct a public hearing on Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. in the second-floor conference room of the Harford County Government Administration Building at 220 S. Main St. in Bel Air on the proposed rule and regulation requiring county government property to be tobacco-free.

"Basically there will be no smoking on county property," Bob Thomas, the chief spokesman for county government, said Monday.

The county has a ban on smoking in all of its buildings, but not on the grounds.

"There's been an issue at the county office building, where smokers congregate down the handicapped ramp and also at a picnic table on the parking lot," Thomas said.

The proposed tobacco-free rule and regulation states: "Smoking and use of any tobacco products is prohibited on all property owned, leased or operated by Harford County, Maryland (the 'County'). This consists of all buildings and grounds, including exterior open spaces, parking lots and garages, driveways and recreational facilities. In addition, smoking is prohibited in any vehicle owned or leased by the County."

Besides cigarettes, cigars and pipes, "smoking" is defined as the use of other tobacco products such as snuff and chewing tobacco, as well as, e-cigarettes.

The tobacco-free rule and regulation has been posted on the county's website, http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/Interests/Index.cfm?ID=7.

The tobacco ban will take effect Jan. 1, 2012; however, the regulation has a provision for the county to provide a designated smoking area outside any leased county facility that is under contract to be used prior to the ban taking place.

Employees who violate this regulation are subject to disciplinary action, according to the regulation. Visitors and/or vendors who are observed violating this regulation will be required to cease the violation, or will be asked to leave the premises.

Thomas said all parks and recreation facilities will be covered by the ban. He said he had been told the library system already bans smoking on all its properties, as does Harford Community College. The HCC ban, imposed in 2007, also pertains to private vehicles parked on the college's parking lots.

What isn't clear, he said, is how the county intends to enforce the regulation if violations occur among the general public, or what sanctions will be taken against employees who are caught violating it. He said Tuesday he has asked the county's law and human resources department for clarification about that provision.

For more information on the hearing or disability accommodations, call 410-638-3350.

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