Please keep your sec­ond­hand smoke o≠ my na­chos

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - BY ADAM ZIM­MER­MAN The writer, a smoke-free ad­vo­cate, lives in Rockville.

In 2003, Mont­gomery County’s land­mark clean in­door air act took ef­fect, en­sur­ing smoke-free air pro­tec­tions in places such as schools, health­care fa­cil­i­ties and county of­fice build­ings. Thanks to that law, the county also be­came the first in Mary­land — and among the ear­li­est on the East Coast — to en­sure 100 per­cent smoke-free air in all in­door restau­rants and other eat­ing and drink­ing es­tab­lish­ments.

In fall 2018, we have the chance to make his­tory again.

Bill 35-18, in­tro­duced by County Coun­cil mem­ber Sid­ney Katz (D-Dis­trict 3), would make Mont­gomery County the first county in Mary­land to have a smoke-free out­door din­ing law.

The ev­i­dence shows that smoke-free out­door din­ing laws work. That’s why the bill has been en­dorsed by the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion, the Cam­paign for To­bacco-Free Kids, Amer­i­cans for Non­smok­ers’ Rights, the In­sti­tute for Pub­lic Health In­no­va­tion, the Mary­land Pub­lic Health As­so­ci­a­tion, the Mary­land Group Against Smoker’s Pol­lu­tion and Holy Cross Health. The County Coun­cil should adopt it.

The 2003 clean in­door air act paid im­me­di­ate div­i­dends eco­nom­i­cally: Six months af­ter en­act­ment, the county re­ported a 7 per­cent in­crease in its restau­rant tax rev­enue com­pared with the same six-month pe­riod in the prior year. In the en­su­ing years, the county ex­tended smoke-free air pro­tec­tions to var­i­ous other places, in­clud­ing county parks, play­grounds and pub­lic hous­ing units. To­day, thanks to these and other ef­forts, Mont­gomery County has the low­est adult smok­ing rate — 7 per­cent — of any county in Mary­land.

Bill 35-18 would build on this record of suc­cess and ce­ment the county’s well-earned rep­u­ta­tion as a na­tional leader on smoke­free poli­cies.

Smoke-free out­door din­ing would im­prove health. There is no safe level of ex­po­sure to sec­ond­hand smoke — even out­doors and even for short pe­ri­ods of time. Smoke-free out­door din­ing will pro­tect pa­trons, es­pe­cially children, and food-ser­vice em­ploy­ees from the dan­gers of sec­ond­hand smoke.

Smoke-free out­door din­ing can have a pos­i­tive eco­nomic im­pact for restau­rants and bars. Mont­gomery County’s own ex­pe­ri­ence shows that to be true, and a sig­nif­i­cant body of re­search ex­am­in­ing sim­i­lar laws na­tion­wide proves the point. As the Na­tional Cancer In­sti­tute and World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion have con­cluded: “The ev­i­dence clearly demon­strates that smoke­free poli­cies do not cause ad­verse eco­nomic out­comes for busi­nesses, in­clud­ing restau­rants and bars. In fact, smoke-free poli­cies of­ten have a pos­i­tive eco­nomic im­pact on busi­nesses.”

Smoke-free out­door din­ing is good not only for non­smok­ers but for smok­ers as well. Re­search from the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion shows that most smok­ers want to quit, and smoke-free air poli­cies can help them do it.

Smoke-free out­door din­ing sends a pos­i­tive mes­sage to county fam­i­lies and vis­i­tors. As a par­ent, I ap­pre­ci­ate liv­ing in a com­mu­nity where lead­ers value and pri­or­i­tize the health of children and fam­i­lies. We’ve rightly come to ex­pect smoke-free air pro­tec­tions in in­door ar­eas of restau­rants and bars. Those same pro­tec­tions should ap­ply to out­door eat­ing and drink­ing ar­eas as well.

If this bill is en­acted, Mont­gomery County will join four states and more than 300 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties across the coun­try — in­clud­ing Rockville and Gaithers­burg — that have en­acted smoke-free out­door din­ing poli­cies. It is a nat­u­ral next step to­ward pro­mot­ing bet­ter health, a stronger econ­omy and a brighter fu­ture for Mont­gomery County children and fam­i­lies. In short, there’s no rea­son not to pass this bill.

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