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Smoking To Be Banned In Howard County Parks

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- There's no smoking indoors at Maryland bars and restaurants, but now one county is taking it a step further by banning smoking outdoors in public parks.

Kai Jackson reports other counties could quickly follow.

Howard County leaders say they've been leading the way educationally and economically.  This new smoking ban is a push to do the same in the area of health.

Lighting up could lighten up your wallet if you're caught smoking in a Howard County park.  Starting Wednesday, the county executive is banning smoking in all county parks.

"As we've been pushing our Healthy Howard initiative to encourage people to be active and go out to the parks, it would be inconsistent with that message if we didn't ban smoking," said Howard County Health Officer Dr. Peter Beilenson.

Fifty-seven parks are affected.  Those caught will be asked to stop.  A second offense and you're asked to leave.  A third offense and you could face a fine ranging from $500 to $1,000.

Those we spoke with have mixed reaction.

"I don't think it's right because we all have our rights," said Alease Leak.

"I think in a park setting, there's a lot more kids and that's why I think it's more important to ban it at a park than at a bar," said Nimita Sheth, supports ban.

"I have sympathy, but they've got plenty of other options," said Dave Friedman.

Howard leads Maryland and the nation in education and economic prosperity.  County leaders say they'd like to be just as successful in the health arena, although critics charge government can't legislate behavior.

"We agree that it's a legal activity.  That doesn't mean it should necessarily be permitted on public property," said Beilenson.

The ban will go into effect once County Executive Ken Ulman signs it.

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