Md. Smoking Regulations Announced

OCEAN CITY – The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) issued last week the final clean indoor air regulations, which will prohibit smoking in local bars and restaurants.

DHMH outlined the regulations of the Clean Indoor Air Act that was passed in May 2007. The act will require certain areas to prohibit smoking in an effort to improve the health, comfort and environment of the people in Maryland. The regulations will go into affect on Feb. 1, 2008, pushing smokers outside and leaving non-smokers breathing easier inside.

The regulations will prohibit smoking in indoor areas open to the public, in outdoor areas that meet the “indoor area” definition and will require businesses to post signs in areas where smoking is prohibited.

The regulations will also prohibit smoking in private clubs with liquor licenses and in mass transit vehicles. Private vehicles used for public transportation of children or for day care and health care transportation are also prohibited.

“The adoption of these regulations is the final step in making Maryland a smoke-free state,” said DHMH Secretary John M. Colmers. “They offer clear guidance for businesses in what they need to do. The experience of other states is that a smoke-free environment is a win-win for the business community as well as the health of Maryland residents.”

For Ocean City, the regulations will have the biggest impact on bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Although some Ocean City restaurants and bars are already non-smoking establishments, the regulations will have an affect on those businesses that have not yet prohibited smoking indoors.

Businesses will be allowed to apply to local health departments for a temporary waiver from certain provisions of the Clean Indoor Air Act. To qualify for a temporary waiver, businesses must show a minimum 15-percent decrease in sales of food and beverage or show that the owner has been unable to recover costs incurred from improvements made to reduce secondhand smoke exposure. Any decrease in sales must occur in at least two consecutive months of smoke-free operations and not be related to any other factors, such as increased competition.

Patrons will be allowed to smoke outside of establishments, but if businesses choose to set up alternative smoking venues, they will not be allowed to set up smoking venues, such as tents or shelters, that fall under the definition of an “indoor area.”

An “indoor area” is defined as, “all space in a structure or building with a ceiling that is enclosed on all sides by any combination of permanent or temporary walls, windows, or doorways, whether open or closed, or other physical barriers extending from floor to ceiling.”

Over the next month, DHMH will be sending information kits to affected businesses in an effort to help with the transition.