Council votes to restrict smoking in Baltimore County parks

Smoking will be banned in parts of Baltimore County parks under legislation approved Tuesday by the County Council.

The measure, which passed 6-0 with one member absent, bans smoking at playgrounds, tot lots, dog parks and athletic fields, and also within 30 feet of recreation buildings. Violators could be fined up to $50.

"I think this is a good bill that will advance public health in Baltimore County," said Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican who sponsored the legislation with Democrats Vicki Almond of Reisterstown and Tom Quirk of Catonsville.

Sponsors of the bill, which was supported by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said they wanted to concentrate on areas where children gather.

Some council members wanted a smoking ban on all parkland, but others felt that was too drastic. The legislation sought a balance the entire council could support, Quirk said. For instance, it will not ban smoking at pavilions, which people rent for events such as family reunions.

"Smoking is legal," said Council Chairwoman Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat. "Why should we be able to tell you that family members couldn't smoke at your pavilion?"

But Kingsville resident Mike Pierce, a member of the Cromwell Valley Park Council, called the bill "pretty much meaningless" for that park — which doesn't have a dog park, tot lot, athletic field or designated playground.

The recreation council had asked for an amendment to ban smoking at events such as festivals. Pierce said if the point of the bill is to protect children from secondhand smoke, the legislation will do nothing for Cromwell Valley, which hosts events that draw many kids — such as a fall festival and an Easter egg hunt.

"I don't care if someone's half a mile out on a trail smoking," Pierce said. "It's the events that we have" that matter, he said.

Councilman John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat, was absent from the meeting due to illness.

If signed by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, the measure would take effect in 45 days.

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