Maryland, Virginia Reject Smoking Bans

Published May 1, 2006

As California regulators began considering banning smoking in such personal spaces as cars, apartments, and hotel rooms, legislators in Maryland and Virginia took a decidedly different tack, defeating attempts to impose smoking bans in restaurants, bars, and other public places.

The Maryland House Health and Government Operations Committee on February 23 voted to reject a proposed statewide ban on smoking in most indoor public places. Three Maryland counties–Montgomery, Talbot, and Prince George’s–have imposed countywide bans on smoking in most public indoor places, but state legislators refused to make such prohibitions statewide in nature.

“There were concerns about the business impacts” of banning smoking in such places as restaurants and bars, said committee chair Peter Hammen (D-Baltimore), explaining the vote in the February 24 Maryland Gazette.

In Virginia, also on February 23, a House of Delegates subcommittee of the General Laws Committee unanimously rejected a similar bill.

“The problem is, I want to have smoke-free restaurants and businesses. But in America, you don’t pass a law to tell a private business owner who is paying rent or mortgage payments what he can and can’t do in his own place,” said Del. David Albo (R-Fairfax), according to the February 24 Washington Post.

Although House rules allow the chairman of the General Laws Committee to bring the defeated bill before the full committee, Chairman John Reid (R-Henrico) indicated he had no plans to do so.

Gov. Timothy Kaine (D) did not support the bill.

— James M. Taylor