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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

By John Wagner  |  February 27, 2007; 1:15 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly  
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Of COURSE they will ban smoking. It is monkey-see ... monkey-do. Every bit of nanny-state nonsense that is passed by any municipality anywhere is adopted by The Peoples Republic of Maryland.

Posted by: gitarre | February 27, 2007 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Actually, there's a more natural inclination toward statewide ban than the simplistic "monkey/nanny" stuff posted above; there is now probably some pressure on state lawmakers from juridictions where the bans are in effect to "even the playing field" for bar owners in their jurisdictions by spreading the ban statewide.

For example, a bar owner in Clinton MD may well want his lawmaker to help push through the statewide ban so his current patrons can't drive down the road to Waldorf to drink and smoke.

Posted by: howie | February 27, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

So the defenders of smoking bans want to restrict smoking in other counties because they know the folks there might choose differently than they want them to do?

Good luck with getting law enforcement in Southern and Western Maryland to go along with such a thing. I think you'll find some folks just won't goose-step to this tune.

Posted by: Rufus | February 27, 2007 4:23 PM | Report abuse

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