Feb. 1 marked the fifth anniversary of the Maryland Clean Indoor Air Law going into effect. Contrary to the dire predictions of the tobacco lobbyists and many members of the Maryland General Assembly, the restaurants, bars, casinos and tourist businesses are thriving.
Although several organizations within Maryland aided in the passage of this legislation, it was the yeoman work of the Maryland Group Against Smoker’s Pollution throughout 32 years that started the effort and provided constant pressure to the General Assembly to ensure the bill’s passage.
When MDGASP started our effort in 1975, smoking anytime and anywhere was part of the U.S. culture. It was very difficult to change this culture, and we were branded by our opposition as being a lunatic fringe group.
Through its propaganda machines, the tobacco industry constantly generated lies about how the restaurants, bars and tourist business would all go bankrupt if we passed clean indoor air laws. They have proved to be wrong.
In addition, Maryland was one of the largest tobacco-growing states in the nation, and we met fierce opposition from the tobacco lobbyists and the senators and delegates in the General Assembly from the tobacco-growing regions of Maryland.
MDGASP was instrumental in removing several of these people from office by urging our members to vote against them and elect members sympathetic to our cause.
When the bill was signed into law May 17, 2007, I was standing behind Gov. Martin O’Malley. The pen and a picture of the ceremonial signing is framed and hanging in my home.
I would like to thank all of our MDGASP members who traveled to Annapolis to provide testimony to the General Assembly and those who responded to our many election guides and legislative action alerts during those many years.
John O’Hara, Bowie
The letter writer is president of Maryland Group Against Smoker’s Pollution.