Committee votes to weaken smoking ban


A House of Delegates committee voted last night to weaken Maryland's landmark workplace smoking ban, one of the toughest in the nation. After three hours of debate, the Environmental Matters Committee voted 16-5 for a bill that exempts bars, hotels, restaurants with liquor licenses and clubs.

Committee members agreed to require hotels and restaurants to set aside 60 percent of their space for nonsmoking sections.

The anti-smoking regulation, scheduled to take effect on March 27, would continue to ban smoking in offices, factories, stores and restaurants that do not serve alcohol. It would allow smoking in employee lounges.

The House bill closely mirrors one approved by the Senate Finance Committee Friday night. House and Senate leaders expect their full chambers to vote on the legislation this week. The measure has enough sponsors in both chambers to pass and to override an expected gubernatorial veto.

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