Montgomery County passes ban on smoking on county property

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Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson,Montgomery County

Smokers will have to steer clear of county-owned property or bus shelters when they light up, under a ban passed by the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday.

Under the ban, smokers will not be allowed to smoke on county-owned property -- including shelters for county buses -- but will be allowed to smoke on sidewalks and on county-owned golf courses.

The ban was introduced by Councilwoman Nancy Floreen, D-at large, in November, and passed unanimously on Tuesday.

Violators will be subject to a civil citation, but the ban will not be enforced by county officials. Floreen said last week that enforcement will depend on residents telling smokers they aren't allowed to smoke in off-limits areas.

The ban allows for designated smoking areas on certain county properties, such as outside county-owned office buildings.

The ban expands on a rule enacted in July 2011 that prohibits smoking in parks and in common areas of housing complexes. Only five complaints have been made to the county's Department of Health and Human Services since that ban began, according to spokeswoman Mary Anderson. No one has been given a civil citation, which ranges from $300 to $1,000.

Floreen said the new ban is important to help reduce the amount of secondhand smoke county residents encounter while outside, and to reinforce a healthier mind-set in the community.

"We are stewards of public health," she said. "The passage of [the ban] will help us to protect our residents, employees and visitors from dangerous exposure."

Another part of the bill requires the county to post signs where smoking is prohibited, though Council Legislative Attorney Amanda Mihill told the council Tuesday that staff was considering amending that because appropriate signage would not be possible at all bus stops.

Originally, the ban was supposed to include golf courses and not bus shelters, but a council committee determined there was a greater need for a ban at bus stops. County staff determined there was a greater desire in the community to prohibit smoking in bus shelters than there was to stop it on any of the county's eight courses.

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kate Jacobson

Montgomery County reporter
The Washington Examiner