Smokers won another round yesterday as the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled that a workplace smoking ban should not take effect Monday.
A three-judge panel upheld an earlier decision to delay the statewide ban until a full hearing on the case could be held in August.
The ruling was issued shortly before the court closed for business and did not include any explanation of the judges' reasoning.
The ban forbids smoking in offices, restaurants, bars, factories, stores and nearly all other indoor workplaces but smoking would allowed in specially ventilated lounges.
The state adopted the ban -- the toughest in the nation -- to protect employees from the health hazards of second-hand smoke. But tobacco companies and some bars, hotels and restaurants have argued that the measure will hurt business.
Earlier this week, they persuaded Talbot County Circuit Judge William S. Horne to delay the ban until both sides could present complete arguments Aug. 11 and 12.
The state attorney general's office immediately appealed Judge Horne's decision, saying it was important to begin Monday to protect employees from second-hand smoke.
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said he likely will not appeal yesterday's ruling. "It's probably not in our best interests to appeal because it probably will be a waste of court time," he said.
Although the state lost yesterday, he said he expected to be victorious soon. "When all is said and done, we're going to win this thing," Mr. Curran said.
Not content to rely solely on courts, pro-smoking forces have taken to the streets this summer.
The National Smokers Alliance, based in Alexandria, Va., was drumming up support for smokers' rights in Baltimore yesterday. At a table on Calvert Street near Lexington, Patricia Davis, 14, who said it was "a summer job," was signing up members with a sign that read, "Support Smokers Rights/Free Gift."
She said some of those who signed up supported smokers' rights while others just wanted the gift, a key chain with "National Smokers Alliance" printed on one side and "Accommodation Not Prohibition" on the other.
Paul Rosenberger, Baltimore coordinator for the smokers' group, said he did not know why a 14-year-old -- who could not smoke legally in Maryland -- was working for his cause. "That is certainly not in an official capacity. This is new to me," said Mr. Rosenberger, a nonsmoker. Last week, the alliance collected about 8,500 signatures in the Baltimore metropolitan area, he said.