- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

The statewide ban on smoking in Maryland bars and restaurants will begin today, adding the state to the roughly two-dozen others with similar legislation.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, signed the law last year as one of several measures to improve health and public safety.

“The bottom line here is this protects the health of the workers and it protects the health of the consumer,” said John Hammond, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The law does not exempt private clubs such as the American Legion, but bars may apply for a waiver if they can prove that their businesses have suffered financial hardship because of the ban. All waivers expire February 2011.

Smoking will still be allowed outside an establishment, but businesses that create alternative smoking spots must be sure that the areas are sufficiently open to the outdoors.

Private vehicles in which children are publicly transported and day care and health care vehicles also must be smoke-free under the ban.

The District has similar bans, and many states have bans or restrictions on smoking in most public places or workplaces.

Although some residents are not happy about the ban, many are elated at the prospect of not having to breathe secondhand smoke.

Sen. Jennie M. Forehand, Montgomery Democrat, recalled her first days in Annapolis about 30 years ago, when smoking was allowed in committee rooms and even the Senate and House chambers.

At the time she hid ashtrays in the House Appropriations Committee several times, and a state trooper even inspected her office after she became a suspect for hiding the ashtrays, she said.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Mrs. Forehand, whose father worked in a smoky work place and died from emphysema and lung cancer, though he never smoked.

Julius Manase, 30, of Aspen Hill, and Gilbert Ambani, 37, said yesterday that they welcome the ban because both lost close relatives who smoked to cancer.

“When I go to a restaurant and someone is smoking, I leave,” said Mr. Manase, whose father died of lung cancer. “You don’t realize how important it is until someone close to you is affected.”

Mr. Ambani said the law sets a good example for children.

“We want to built technologists and researchers,” he said standing with Mr. Manase outside the Mall at Prince Georges. “We don’t want to build smokers.”

Others did not like the ban, saying it makes smoking inconvenient for those who do.

Julia Wood, 50, said the ban will be especially tough during colder months.

“I can’t smoke with gloves on,” she said. “I don’t know anybody who can smoke with gloves on.”

Dr. Clifford Mitchell, director of environmental health coordination at the Maryland Department of Health and Human Hygiene, said about 100 businesses a week have called recently to ask about how to comply with the ban.

He anticipates that roughly 99 percent of businesses will be able to comply.

In recent years, Maryland smokers who wanted to light up in restaurants or bars had to go to counties such as Anne Arundel or to Virginia after several jurisdictions, including Prince George and Montgomery counties, passed smoking bans.

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, said last month that this year, he will take a second try at enacting a similar ban in the state known as a large producer of tobacco and home to Philip-Morris USA.

Mr. Kaine lobbied unsuccessfully for a ban last year after modifying a bill that would have required restaurants that allow smoking to post signs.

The Republican-controlled State House rejected the amendment.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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