Kicking Montgomery’s smokers to the curb -- Gazette.Net


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Some may find value in Councilwoman Nancy Floreen’s proposal to ban smoking on all property the county owns or leases. Few want smokers to light up anywhere; chasing them from public property, to some at least, may seem a noble cause.

The proposal will likely spark significant debate. As written, tenants in apartments owned by the Housing Opportunities Commission would be restricted from smoking, though already council members have discussed a possible change on that front. Smoking is permitted in county parks and that wouldn’t change under the legislation; parks are owned by the bi-county Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, and therefore beyond the scope of the bill.

The proposal offers several worrisome issues.

First, how far are Montgomery County’s overprotective overseers willing to go? The county has banned smoking in restaurants and bars, despite the protestations of restaurant lobbyists. Somehow, the world continued spinning. The government turned its attention to our menus, banning trans fats and insisting calorie counts be posted. County residents can now dine out safely knowing that fully and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils will not pass their lips.

The calorie-counting messages, however, seem to have had little effect, as there’s no shortage of carbohydrate-laden goodies.

As far as smoking is concerned, smokers can’t light up in most public places already. Floreen’s bill, which will is scheduled to have its hearing in January, roots out the few.

What’s next? We’ve seen New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg target large sodas. How long before the autocrats of 100 Maryland Ave. go after our Big Gulps?

But the other worrisome issue is that with everything the county faces, this is how the Montgomery County Council chooses to consume its time. Might their constituents prefer they work on creating jobs or affordable housing? Or developing transportation solutions? Or hammering out better relations with the county Board of Education? Or scouring county spending in search of savings?

Surely, something — anything — is more important than kicking smokers to the sidewalk.