- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 3, 2000

ANNAPOLIS Smokers who thought Maryland was finished pushing them out when the state banned smoking inside public buildings in 1995 are in for a shock.

If Delegate John Arnick, Baltimore County Democrat, has his way, anyone caught smoking in a park, public recreation area or on school property in Maryland could get slapped with a $25 fine.

Reaction to the proposed crackdown on smoking in public parks has been so negative, though, that Mr. Arnick is already backpedaling: He says he plans to eliminate parks from the ban.

That compromise isn't enough for critics who see Mr. Arnick's anti-smoking initiative as an unwarranted expansion of Big Brother-style government.

"Let's see, I can smoke in my home … and in my car, but that's probably only until next year. I'm not sure if I can smoke on the water because it's a recreational resource," said Delegate George W. Owings, the House Democratic whip, who represents Calvert and Anne Arundel counties.

"Current laws are being ignored in schools. It's ridiculous," said Bruce Bereano, a lobbyist representing tobacco wholesalers and retailers. "There's absolutely no rationale for this.

"You've got to at some point recognize the fact that there are adults in this state that are going to smoke, no matter what you do, and be reasonable and let them live their lives," Mr. Bereano said.

Delegate Charles R. Boutin, Harford County Republican, wondered aloud yesterday if the anti-smoking movement's ultimate goal is a ban on any use of tobacco anywhere in the state.

The ban, as currently envisioned, could create some unusual enforcement scenarios. Boaters, for example who pull into a slip at a state-owned marina, would be subject to a $25 fine for stepping onto the dock with a lit cigarette, pipe or cigar. An adult smoking in his or her car while driving in a school parking lot could also be fined.

Even a group that wants smoking completely banned on school grounds doesn't support applying a smoking ban to parks.

"It would be too hard to do in parks," said Scott Gibson, a high school student representing the Baltimore County Student Councils Association.

Mr. Arnick said he offered the two bills one for schools and one for parks and recreation areas because he'd received complaints from parents concerned that the state wasn't doing all it could to deter students from smoking.

"Kids are playing on a recreational soccer field, and all their heroes are standing on the sidelines smoking," Mr. Arnick said.

The state Board of Education has taken no position on a statewide ban, said spokesman Ron Peiffer. He said seven of the state's 24 public school systems already prohibit smoking anywhere on school grounds all the time, and the rest prohibit smoking anywhere on school property during the school day.

It's also illegal for anyone younger than 18 to possess tobacco products in Maryland.

Mr. Gibson said it's because those restrictions aren't being effectively enforced in Baltimore County schools that student leaders agreed to support the bill.

"I think what we have to do now is see that it's being enforced," said Delegate Kathy Klausmeier, a Democrat representing Baltimore County and city.

But Delegate Dan K. Morhaim, a physician and Baltimore County Democrat, defended Mr. Arnick's proposal, arguing that the state needs to stop smoking before it starts and send a message consistent with the stance it took in winning a $4.6 billion settlement from the tobacco industry.

Legislative analysts project that enforcing the ban on smoking in parks and recreation areas could cost the state about $64,000 more annually in overtime for park rangers.

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