March 30, 2011

Montgomery councilman seeks further ban on smoking

Smoking would be banned in some parts of Montgomery County apartment buildings and within 25 feet of their playgrounds under a proposal being considered by the County Council.

The regulation, introduced Tuesday, would prohibit smokers from lighting up in the hallway, laundry room, lobby or other indoor common area of a multiple-family home, such as an apartment complex or town house development. The ban would not apply to outdoor common areas, except for playgrounds.

However, the regulation already is being criticized by at least one tobacco lobbyist, who says the county government is effectively trying to ban a legal activity.

Montgomery County already outlaws smoking in the workplace and in restaurants, said Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park. His regulation seeks to close a loophole that still allows people to come into contact with dangerous secondhand smoke where they live and play, he said.

A public hearing on the regulation is scheduled for May 5.

"I think it's another example of government trying to control people's lives," said Bruce Bereano, a lobbyist for the state's tobacco wholesalers. "It's typical Montgomery County, just trying to have government run every aspect of [citizens'] lives."

Leventhal said he decided to introduce the regulation after hearing from a county resident whose neighbor constantly smokes in the hallway of his apartment complex.

"Secondhand smoke is a health risk, and it's just rude," Leventhal said.

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