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Montgomery smoking ban includes apartment areas

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The signs at the entrance to Americana Centre Condominiums in Rockville reads: "No skateboarding, no roller blading, no roller skates."

With the Montgomery County Council extending its smoking ban Tuesday to include common areas in apartment complexes, the maintenance crew will likely have to add "no smoking."

The ban prohibits lighting up in such common areas of multifamily dwelling units as lobbies and laundry rooms. It also prohibits lit cigarettes within 25 feet of a private playground that is used by multiple families or in a community.

The ban was approved 8-1 with council member Craig Rice, District 2 Democrat, the lone dissenter. He said a playground area is defined in the proposal as a swing set, sandbox, slide, seesaw or playhouse, "but what about a child playing Frisbee 10 feet away from someone smoking."

Council member Nancy Navarro, District 4 Democrat, a former smoker, said she remembered how "extraordinarily difficult" it is to quit smoking.

"We should make it more difficult to have the opportunity to smoke," she said.

Council member George Leventhal, at-large Democrat, who sponsored the bill said he is "quite interested" in discussions about extending to ban to include county parks, which New York recently did and Howard County, Md., is poised to consider.

Americana front desk manager Evelyn Hansen said she doesn't expect the ban to result in a backlash among residents, considering smoking on site is already limited to private units.

"And right now they're fixing up the plaza deck," she added. "I know [management] is not going to allow smoking there. The only thing I can see being a problem now is if people are throwing butts off the balconies."

The ban will go into effect next month.

The County Council also introduced a bill Tuesday that puts a curfew on minors from midnight to 5 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday and 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Council member Marc Elrich, an at-large Democrat who serves on the public safety committee, said the proposal stemmed from recent problems for police trying to monitor an influx of juveniles from the District and Prince George's County, and trying to stay one step ahead in a world in which communication is as quick as a few taps of a phone button.

"This is a big step for the county," he said. "We don't want to impose things you don't need to impose. but there's no magic that says [crime] can't happen in Montgomery County."

Montgomery County Police spokesman Capt. Paul Starks said the curfew, if passed, "will be just another tool. It's not something that's mean to resolve everything."

A public hearing on the curfew is scheduled 1:30 p.m. on July 26.

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