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County Council Approves Ban on Smoking in Some Public Places and Near Playgrounds

Common areas of apartment buildings included in the ban, which takes effect Aug. 12.

The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a prohibition on smoking in common areas and near playgrounds of multi-family homes. 

The ban will take effect on Aug. 12. It will apply to shared hallways, lobbies and laundry rooms and playgrounds of “multi-family residential dwellings,” such as apartment and condominium buildings.

“This measure will protect nonsmokers from involuntary exposure to dangerous secondhand tobacco smoke,” Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg said.

An amendment added to the bill on Tuesday prohibits smoking within 25 feet of playground areas on privately owned property that serves residents of more than one home, such as playground areas in townhouse communities and subdivisions of single-family homes.

The regulation will not apply to homeowners with playground equipment in their yards. 

The Rockville City Council passed a similar ban on smoking near playgrounds in 2009.

The council is urging the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission to make its rules regarding smoking in public parks consistent with the county ban—“particularly near playground equipment that’s used by kids," Andrews said.

Smoking ban critics argue that the bans are an over-extension of government.

“This regulation will not deny anyone their rights, but it will protect the rights of people who do not want to be impacted by second-hand smoke—particularly children,” Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park said in a statement. “People who live in multi-family communities do not have the choice to easily avoid the second-hand smoke created by others. Now those who want to avoid smoke in the common areas of the place they live will be able to do so.”

Leventhal is the chairman of the council’s Health and Human Services Committee and was the chief sponsor of the bill. Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac cosponsored the bill.

As the chief sponsor the 2003 legislation that banned smoking in county restaurants—the first of its kind in Maryland—Andrews is familiar with the arguments of critics who say smoking bans are products of a “nanny-state.”

The latest ban is the same kind of “common sense measure” taken by the council in 2003, he said.

“When it comes to protecting people’s health, people have the right to not breathe in poison—and cigarette smoke is a poison. People have a right not to be exposed to that in a playground, or in a restaurant or in workplaces. And that is what the county has adopted over the years.”

Jeff Hawkins July 13, 2011 at 07:16 PM
Yet another self-made opportunity for our elected leaders to tell it's citizen's how to best "live your life". I'm a non-smoker and of course realize the dangers of tobacco, but this is not the right way to handle it. If these products are so dangerous, then why allow them to be sold in the County in the first place? We can't have "fireworks" on the 4th can we? I'm quite sure that in an effort to safeguard the health of it's citizen's it would surely give up the tax money collected on these tobacco products. Basically it's legislators with nothing much more to do other than to legislate.....
Steve Davies July 14, 2011 at 02:14 AM
Seems awfully difficult to enforce, but hey, I'm all for it. Now that they've harvested the lowest hanging fruit available and made themselves feel good (but not much else), the crusading councilmembers can move on to tackling a much more serious problem: the widespread use by county crews of gas-powered leaf blowers and other lawn care equipment in our public parks and on public rights of way. (They're also used at schools, attended by... you guessed it -- children!) Yes, children are exposed to the nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds contained in the emissions from this equipment, which I see used EVERYWHERE. Well, what about it, councilmember Andrews? Will you and (purported environmentalist) Roger Berliner co-sponsor a bill to phase out the use of this equipment by county crews at parks and schools? George Leventhal, how 'bout you? Doesn't it bother you when you encounter leaf blowers when you're bicycling? Oops, wait a second. That might be difficult and politically unpopular. Hmmmm. Let's forget about that, shall we? Instead, let's ban the application of nail polish within 500 feet of a school. I mean, that stuff is poison! And while the council dithers, air quality gets worse and more people are made sick or die from asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other pollution-related ailments. But hey, put out that Marlboro, buddy. The county council is here to protect the public welfare! I'm embarrassed to be a citizen of Montgomery County.
Sharon July 14, 2011 at 02:29 AM
Kudos, Steve! Add the fact that one of the amenities I have living in the Village is the 'presence and companionship' of filthy, dirty rats. Resolution and extermination does not seem forthcoming since I have been alerting my HOA for past 5-6 months of presence under rotted deck of house that also has other maintenance issues that seemed ignored by HOA. So we have the 'benefit' of rat droppings when our children play on common ground or even walk out their front door. And try to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning when you have a coffee cup in one hand & holding (and disposing of) a dead, stench-laden dead rat in the other. Maybe the Council can one day make it a priority to take up my suggestion or recommendation...elect a Board within the County to hold HOA's responsible to 'oversee and enforce' regulations that mandated Homeowner Association fees are supposed to guarantee. I am not talking single-family homes where homeowners are responsible for ridding property of rats. I am talking about townhouses & common ground owned by HOA. I will take 'smoke' over disease-ridden rats any day!!! And the smoke isn't an embarrassment when I have visitors to my home. Willard the rat IS!
Steve Davies July 14, 2011 at 03:06 AM
Thank you, Sharon. I see you have been battling the powers-that-be in Montgomery Village for some time. I used to cover the Village for the Gazette -- many years ago. HOAs are indeed difficult animals to deal with. Not as bad as rats, but slippery nonetheless.
Sharon July 14, 2011 at 03:21 AM
Slippery is an understatement, Steve. It is long overdue for some higher power to hold HOA's accountable rather than giving them carte' blanche right (via corporation status) to embezzle my money quarterly for services & promised protections not rendered. How long ago did you cover the Village for the Gazette? I certainly hope you were a more unbiased reporter (MVF's Golden Boy who printed only what MVF wanted in print) who wrote about at least 'some' the realities rather than all 'flowery, sugar-coated' articles that always presented the Village as a 24/7 paradise. Paradise for the geese @ Lake Whetstone maybe! LOL! I can't seem to convince any current reporters to research & tackle some of the issues that should be brought to the publics' attention. Sigh!

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