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Montgomery County smoking ban goes into effect Monday

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Photo - NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 16:  A woman smokes in a Times Square pedestrian island on September 16, 2010 in New York City. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a ban on smoking in city parks, beaches, and parts of Times Square. Citing the danger of second hand smoke, the mayor sees the proposal as an extension of a popular public smoking ban in 2002 in workplaces and a ban in 2003 in restaurants and bars.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 16: A woman smokes in a Times Square pedestrian island on September 16, 2010 in New York City. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed a ban on smoking in city parks, beaches, and parts of Times Square. Citing the danger of second hand smoke, the mayor sees the proposal as an extension of a popular public smoking ban in 2002 in workplaces and a ban in 2003 in restaurants and bars. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Local,Maryland,Kate Jacobson,Montgomery County,Smoking

Anyone looking to take a smoke break in any of Montgomery County's parks or bus hangers, or outside county courthouses, might want to think again, as the county's more widespread smoking ban goes into effect on Monday.

The ban prohibits smoking on all county-owned properties except public rights of way, such as sidewalks or golf courses owned by the county.

Councilwoman Nancy Floreen, D-at large, introduced the smoking ban in November 2012, and the council passed the ban earlier this year. County Chief Administrative Officer Tim Firestine sent out a memo last week detailing where the ban would be in place and asked county employees to report people who were caught smoking on public property to supervisors.

"Violations of the law should be reported to your supervisor (if the smoker is a county employee) or to the building manager (if the smoker is a visitor on county property,)" he wrote in the memo to county employees.

Those caught busting the ban will be given a warning the first time, then a $200 citation after that. They will receive a $500 ticket after a third violation and $1,000 for any subsequent violation.

A previous smoking ban on some county properties, including parks and playgrounds, was instituted in July 2011. Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said county officials did not actively enforce the ban, relying instead on people to report others. She said issuing a ticket to someone would require an accuser to provide substantial evidence that a violator smoked on property where it was prohibited.

According to Firestine's memo, a similar practice would be in place for the new ban.

Floreen said the new ban is not intended to increase civil infractions; rather it is supposed to change perception of county residents and empower others to stop violators.

Some residents have wrote to council, saying the ban amounted to an overreach of the government's authority.

"To be consistent with the latest idea, it should also be illegal to consume on county property food containing trans fats ... genetically modified corn snacks ... and sugary sodas more than 12 ounces," wrote county resident Bill Moser. "It should also be illegal to wear inadequate clothing in the wintertime."

kjacobson@washingtonexaminer.com

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