Smokers could soon be asked to step off Montgomery County property to have a cigarette, puff a cigar or light a pipe.
Councilwoman Nancy Floreen announced Thursday her plans to introduce a bill that would ban smoking on all county-owned or county-leased property, with the exception of public rights of way.
Floreen’s bill would make it illegal to smoke outside of libraries, in parking garages, outdoor recreation areas, on county golf courses and areas like Veterans Plaza in Silver Spring. However, people could still smoke on sidewalks, at bus stops and on county roads.
“This is about public trust. This is about public protection. And this is about public health,” Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park said.
Backed by five other council members, Floreen’s proposed bill only will add to the list of places where, under county code, smoking tobacco is prohibited.
But its application will be discussed by the council following introduction on Nov. 27 and public hearing, currently scheduled for Jan. 15.
The council will have to hash out the details of the bill, such as inside private residences owned by the county.
Also, the law currently allows the county’s Chief Administrative Officer to permit smoking in county buildings, in designated smoking areas or in spaces that are deemed large enough that one person smoking would not affect others.
Enforcement of smoking violations is currently complaint-driven. First-time violations would carry a $50 fine, while repeat offenses carry a $75 fine, Floreen said.
As written, Floreen’s bill would keep enforcement as is.
Acknowledging that the legislation will primarly impact county employees, Councilman George L. Leventhal said council members care about the health and longevity and productivity of county employees.
The 2003 ban on smoking in bars and restaurants dropped the percentage of county adults who smoke from 11 percent to 8 percent, he said.
“Ladies and gentlemen, if you are a smoker, you need to stop,” said Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park.
Councilman Hans Riemer, a former smoker, said those who have smoked know it is a lifelong challenge not to smoke and being confronted by colleagues doing just that around an entrance does not help.
“Anything we can do to make it easier for a person to shake that demon,” said Riemer (D-At large) of Takoma Park of the bill. “We should be a model employer and this should not be controversial.”
In addition to Leventhal and Reimer, the bill’s other co-sponsors are Councilwoman Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring, and Councilmen Craig Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown and Marc Elrich (D-At Large) of Takoma Park.