A bill that would ban smoking on almost all county-controlled land in Montgomery County, Md. was formally introduced Tuesday.
If passed, people could generally smoke only in their own homes, their own cars, and on streets and sidewalks. They could not smoke in public plazas, nor in county parking lots.
Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-At-large) is the chief sponsor of the legislation. For Floreen, the issue of discouraging smoking is both political and personal.
"I've got a cousin who is right now undergoing very expensive medical treatment for stage four throat cancer - a pack-a-day smoker for 50 years," Floreen told us in an interview.
The legislation would flatly prohibit smoking on any property that is owned or leased by Montgomery County, with the exception of the "right-of-way," meaning smoking would still be legal on county streets and on county sidewalks.
Floreen confirmed that under the law, smokers could not gather under the entrance ways of county buildings, even if it's raining or snowing outside. They would have to walk away from the building to the nearest sidewalk before lighting up. Smoking would also be banned on any outdoor parking lots owned or leased by the county government.
First-time violators could face a fine of up to $50.
Most parkland in Montgomery County would not be covered by the sweeping ordinance because a separate bi-county agency sets the rules for parks.
The proposed prohibition on smoking on county-controlled land is annoying to smoker Donald Shaw.
"Smoking is, granted, unhealthy for your health, but it's a free right," said Shaw, who lives in Rockville. "We have the right to smoke if we choose to (if we're over the age of 18). And to ban it from just a parking lot is ridiculous."
A public hearing on the proposal to ban smoking on any county land (except streets and sidewalks) has been scheduled for January 15. Opponents may have an uphill fight. Seven of the nine council members in Montgomery County have signaled their support for the ban.
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