Could Baltimore Smoking Ban Tip State?
The Baltimore City Council's passage last night of a ban on smoking in the city's bars and restaurants re-ignited debate today over a statewide prohibition pending in the Maryland General Assembly.
As of Jan. 1, Baltimore will join Montgomery, Prince George's, Howard and Talbot counties, which already have
bans. Once Baltimore's takes effect, nearly half of Maryland's residents will live in jurisdictions with a prohibition on smoking in bars and restaurants.
Del. Curt Anderson (D), chairman of the Baltimore delegation, said the council's 9-2 vote puts "the writing on the wall" for a statewide ban. "There's clear momentum to bring the bill out of committee and subject it to a vote on the House floor."
But the chairman of the House Economic Matters committee that will take up the bill next week said he could not predict which way it will go.
"It's still uncertain," Del. Dereck Davis (D-Prince George's) said. "You can say smoking is banned in half the state, so let's go ahead. But there's also sentiment that this is happening jurisdiction by jurisdiction, so why should the state get involved?"
Across the hall, Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles) said yesterday that he is trying to gauge support for the bill in his chamber.
The Senate Finance Committee, which he chairs, is split on the bill. "If I find there is not the vote for it, I will not let it out of my committee," he said.
Sixteen other states and the District have adopted bans. Some, including New York and Massachusetts,
adopted statewide bans after their largest cities prohibited smoking.
In past years, opposition from Baltimore lawmakers has been a major stumbling block to passage in Maryland.
-- John Wagner, Lisa Rein and Ovetta Wiggins
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