Chevy Chase neighborhood pursuing nation's toughest outdoor smoking ban

CHEVY CHASE, Md. - An outdoor smoking ban under consideration for Friendship Heights would give the Chevy Chase neighborhood the nation's most far-reaching restrictions.

The Village Council is seeking a ban on smoking in all public spaces maintained by the local government. The group Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights said the proposed restrictions are more stringent than those of the roughly 60 jurisdictions nationwide with outdoor smoking bans.

Under the ban, people caught smoking or discarding tobacco products in publicly owned areas in Friendship Heights, a neighborhood of 5,000 in Chevy Chase, would be subject to a $100 fine. The Montgomery County Council is expected to vote on the measure Dec. 12.

Friendship Heights Mayor Alfred Muller, the man largely responsible for pushing the ban through the Village Council, said the goal was not only to deter smoking but to protect civil rights.

Muller cited the case of an asthmatic resident who often had to cross the street to avoid smokers. The smoke, Muller said, could cause the man to start coughing and trigger an asthma attack.

Opponents of the ban said scant evidence exists that smoking outdoors endangered the health of passers-by, and accused Muller of trying to inhibit personal freedom.

''A whiff of smoke in someone's face is not a crime or something we need to worry about,'' said Cleonice Tavani, the president of the Friendship Heights Village Civic Association. ''We do not need to be a police state.''

The Village Council first approved the ban four years ago but pulled it from the County Council before a vote could be taken after facing vehement opposition.

Muller said a friendlier environment to anti-smoking legislation both locally and nationwide led the Village Council to reintroduce the ban. He cited the County Council's approval last year of a ban on smoking in restaurants, along with the national tobacco settlement of 1998.

But opposition is still strong, Tavani said. She accused Muller and the Village Council of trying to impose a regulation in defiance of a majority of the neighborhood's residents.

Officials said the regulation faces an uncertain end before the County Council.


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