A proposal to ban smoking on county property received a mixed reaction from residents.
Only three came to testify Tuesday on the bill proposed by Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park to prohibit smoking outside of libraries, in parking garages and outdoor recreation areas, on county golf courses and in areas like Veterans Plaza in Silver Spring. However, people could still smoke on sidewalks, at bus stops and on county right of way.
John O’Hara of the Maryland group Against Smokers Pollution and Christine Feinthel, a resident, both testified in favor of the bill. Debra Robins, president of Century Distributors, said it would hurt her business, which distributes tobacco products.
The lengths authorities go to protect citizens from radiation is astounding but that those same authorities do not do enough to protect citizens from breathing the toxins into their lungs in the form of tobacco smoke, O’Hara testified.
He asked the council to consider adding bus shelters to the list of places in the bill where smokers would be prohibited from lighting up.
Expanding the smoking ban now is both appropriate and timely, Feinthel said.
“The county needs to set a good example and include more areas under a smoking ban,” she said.
But for Robins, her Montgomery County-based distributing business is dependent on tobacco, as 82 percent of what they distribute is tobacco products, she said.
Responsible for affixing the Maryland tax stamp on each pack of cigarettes, at a price of $2 per stamp, in 2012 Century stamped more than 19 million cigarette packs or almost $40 million in tax revenue, she said.
“Why at this time do we need another bill to limit where consumers can smoke? Why is this even a discussion?” she asked. “The numbers [of smokers] are reducing themselves without a legislative bill or further restrictions on where one can smoke.”
The bill, she said, is more than just a health issue, but a business question for the county as it affects the viability of those businesses that sell or distribute tobacco.
Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg, said the proposed legislation is not intended to protect smokers from themselves, but rather to protect nonsmokers from exposure to second-hand smoke.
Floreen’s bill, which is backed by five other council members, will add to the list of places where, under county code, smoking tobacco is prohibited. Smoking is prohibited in public areas including shared work spaces of private businesses, county government workplaces, rail transit stations and eating and drinking establishments with a seating capacity of 50 or more.