The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a prohibition on smoking in common areas and near playgrounds of multi-family homes.
The ban will take effect on Aug. 12. It will apply to shared hallways, lobbies and laundry rooms and playgrounds of “multi-family residential dwellings,” such as apartment and condominium buildings.
“This measure will protect nonsmokers from involuntary exposure to dangerous secondhand tobacco smoke,” Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg said.
An amendment added to the bill on Tuesday prohibits smoking within 25 feet of playground areas on privately owned property that serves residents of more than one home, such as playground areas in townhouse communities and subdivisions of single-family homes.
The regulation will not apply to homeowners with playground equipment in their yards.
The council is urging the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission to make its rules regarding smoking in public parks consistent with the county ban—“particularly near playground equipment that’s used by kids," Andrews said.
Smoking ban critics argue that the bans are an over-extension of government.
“This regulation will not deny anyone their rights, but it will protect the rights of people who do not want to be impacted by second-hand smoke—particularly children,” Councilman George L. Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park said in a statement. “People who live in multi-family communities do not have the choice to easily avoid the second-hand smoke created by others. Now those who want to avoid smoke in the common areas of the place they live will be able to do so.”
Leventhal is the chairman of the council’s Health and Human Services Committee and was the chief sponsor of the bill. Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac cosponsored the bill.
As the chief sponsor the 2003 legislation that banned smoking in county restaurants—the first of its kind in Maryland—Andrews is familiar with the arguments of critics who say smoking bans are products of a “nanny-state.”
The latest ban is the same kind of “common sense measure” taken by the council in 2003, he said.
“When it comes to protecting people’s health, people have the right to not breathe in poison—and cigarette smoke is a poison. People have a right not to be exposed to that in a playground, or in a restaurant or in workplaces. And that is what the county has adopted over the years.”