By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun
7:40 PM EST, January 6, 2014
Several Baltimore County Council members say they're planning to introduce legislation in the coming weeks that will seek to ban smoking at all county parks.
The proposal follows a recommendation by the county's recreation and parks board, which suggested the county make the move for public health reasons.
Members of the board said in a letter to Councilman David Marks last fall that the county has a responsibility to protect the health and safety of children and adults while they use county park and recreation facilities. "Adopting a tobacco-free policy is part of this obligation," the board wrote, citing dangers of second-hand smoke.
Marks, a Perry Hall Republican, said this week the council should take the board's recommendation seriously.
"I have heard complaints over the years from parents, particularly at playgrounds, and they see both teenagers and adults smoking on grounds," Marks said. "Quite frankly, whatever a person does to their own body, as long as it's not affecting other human beings — that's their business. But this affects others."
Marks had planned to introduce a smoking ban bill at Monday's council session, but said he decided to wait a few weeks because some council members questioned how the ban would be enforced.
"I think there were still some questions from my colleagues, and you always want to put in a bill that has a shot of passage," he said. "Enforceability's certainly an issue."
Council members Tom Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat, and Vicki Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat, plan to co-sponsor the measure with Marks. Quirk said it makes sense to ban smoking in places where people are seeking "healthy living."
"If you're out in a park, you're probably doing it to enjoy the outdoors," Quirk said.
Under the proposal being considered, violators would face civil fines of up to $50, Marks said.
Smoking is banned at Howard County parks, where County Executive Ken Ulman issued an executive order in 2011 prohibiting it on all county park land.
It's restricted in Anne Arundel County parks, where people are not allowed to use tobacco in park or recreational facility restrooms, spectator and concession areas, dog parks, aquatic facilities or playgrounds. Tobacco use also is banned within 100 yards of an organized event, such as athletic games and concerts.
Smoking is allowed in Baltimore City parks.
Sun reporters Yvonne Wenger and Pamela Wood contributed to this article.
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