smoking at playgrounds ban

An empty cigarette box sits on a table under a pavilion at Honeygo Run Regional Park. The Baltimore County and City Councils are considering legislation to ban smoking at playgrounds, tot lots, dog parks and athletic fields. (Photo by Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun / February 3, 2014)

The bill would not include pavilions, which are often rented for private events. At a work session Tuesday, Councilman John Olszewski Sr. said banning smoking at such events would go too far. "I don't condone smoking, but at the same time, it's a legal product," he said.

Howard County banned smoking on all parkland in 2011. A county spokesman said everyone who has been asked by a park ranger to stop smoking has complied.

"Almost all of them willingly, but some a little begrudgingly," spokesman David Nitkin wrote in an email. "Even our largest events, like Wine in the Woods in downtown Columbia, have required minimal enforcement. It seems this is really something most people want, and appreciate."

In Anne Arundel County, tobacco use is banned in park or recreational facility restrooms, spectator and concession areas, dog parks, aquatic facilities and playgrounds. It is also prohibited within 100 yards of an organized event, such as an athletic competition or a concert.

Harford County has prohibited smoking, the use of tobacco and e-cigarettes on all county property, including parks, since 2012. Smoking is allowed in Carroll County parks, except for within 50 yards of athletic fields during recreation council activities.

"There has been some discussion regarding [a ban] in the past," said Jeff Degitz, administrator of the county's Department of Recreation and Parks. "But there was not an interest among our advisory board to pursue that."

At Honeygo Run Regional Park in Perry Hall, Bob Hughes, who regularly walks his dog there, said he doesn't think smoking in parks is a problem.

"It's going up in the air anyhow," the 74-year-old Baltimore man said. "I gave up smoking back in 1980, but I still love the smell of it."

Hector Carreras, 58, who also was walking his dog, said he once smoked several packs of cigarettes daily. Now he can't stand secondhand smoke.

Walking past a cloud of cigarette smoke feels "like someone went into my lungs and yanked the air out of it," the Perry Hall man said.

Officials in Baltimore and Baltimore County say they believe residents will follow the rules if smoking is banned.

"I'm sincerely hoping that police never have to be involved in this," Cole said. He said the law could be enforced by park rangers and code enforcement officers. "I think the signs will help tremendously."

In the county, Marks said, "We hope that there's a bit of self-enforcement."

Baltimore Sun reporters Yvonne Wenger and Pamela Wood contributed to this article.