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Case Dropped Against Smoking Ban

The coalition of restaurant owners who had opposed Montgomery County’s smoking ban voluntarily dropped the suit, said Melvin Thompson, vice president for government relations of the Restaurant Association of Maryland.

“The Customer Choice Coalition has voluntarily dismissed the case,” Thompson said.

Montgomery County’s smoking ban went into effect in October, 2003 after a circuit court judge refused to issue an injunction against it. The ban prohibits smoking at any indoor eating and drinking establishment, but exempts private clubs.

The Council enacted the measure as a Public Health initiative. The day after the lawsuit was dropped, noted Patrick Lacefield, spokesperson for the Montgomery County Council, there were published reports that as little as 30 minutes exposure to second-hand smoke can increase a risk of heart attack.

Restaurant owners opposed the bill fearing a loss of business. They stated that since the bill is only countywide, smokers will simply drive to neighboring jurisdictions like Prince George’s County or the District of Columbia.

“We’re happy that the lawsuit has been dropped,” said Patrick Lacefield, spokesperson for the Montgomery County Council.

Thompson cited mounting legal fees as a reason for dropping the suit. He said a decline in business also made money short for the restaurant owners who were fighting the ban.

Restaurant owners who oppose smoking bans decided that their energies should be directed toward fighting a statewide smoking ban which was proposed in the Maryland General Assembly during the legislative session, Thompson said. The bill was defeated in the Senate Finance Committee.

Thompson still expressed opposition to the idea of the smoking ban. “Our position has not changed at all on how we feel about it,” Thompson said.