Montgomery County Council President Isiah Leggett, joined by Councilmembers Blair Ewing and Phil Andrews, held a press conference today to announce the introduction of legislation to prohibit smoking in any public eating and drinking establishment in the County. Citing strong evidence of the dangers from secondhand smoke and the Maryland Department of Health’s statistics that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is responsible for the deaths of about 1,000 Marylanders each year, the three Councilmembers called for County residents to join them in support of this important legislation.
Councilman Leggett stated, "Smokefree restaurants work. They are good for the patrons, the employees, and the owners. Brookline, Massachusetts, New York City, Boulder, Colorado, West Lake, Texas, and the State of California have all passed similar legislation, and all are prospering. Closer to home, Howard County passed a law prohibiting smoking in restaurants in 1996 and has since had many new restaurants open there, including quite a few national franchises.
"This legislation is important for several reasons. Restaurants have such high levels of tobacco smoke, and most restaurant employees are women. We have received information that waitresses die of lung cancer more often than any other women’s occupational group. In my opinion, this makes protection from secondhand smoke a workplace and a women’s issue. Certainly, we are trying to shield the patrons of County restaurants from the effects of secondhand smoke, but we are also trying to protect vulnerable employees who are often single parents or young adults."
Councilman Ewing went on the say, "It is time to take action to protect all our citizens from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke. Restaurant patrons need this protection now."
Councilmember Andrews stated, "Montgomery County needs smoke-free restaurants to protect public health. Restaurant employees shouldn’t have to choose between their health or a paycheck, and patrons have the right to a smoke-free environment in all places of public accommodation, including restaurants."
The three Councilmen thanked the members of the SmokeFree Montgomery Coalition for their perseverance and assistance in working for this legislation. Mr. Leggett concluded by quoting Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has."