The long arm of the law has reached out an extra millimeter in Montgomery County to nab two young men accused of smoking cigarettes in public.
The misdemeanor citations, the first ever issued under Montgomery County's year old no-smoking ordinance, were written by a county Department of Enviromental Protection investigator after she allegedly caught the two young smokers near a Coke machine in a Sears Roebuck store April 28.
"It's humiliating as anything", said Robert J. Corley, 22, as he lit up a cigarette outside the Montgomery Mall Sears Auto Center where he works. "I mean. people come in here all the time smoking. I saw a fire marshal smoking his stogie and he was wearing his uniform. We fell we are being discriminated against."
Corley and Spencer T. Ward, 26, his friend and fellow Sears employe, were cited by investigator J. Goldenberg and face a $50 fine if convicted. The county code makes it a misdemeanor for "any person to smoke in any retail store in which more than eight persons are employed at any one time."
"We're going to fight this in court," Ward said. "We fell we were singled out . . . Look," he said, pointing to a truck nearby, "that truck is parked in a fire zone. How come he's not being ticketed?".
Corley said the investigator "came up to us, asked us if we were employes here (at Sears) flashed a badge on us and then wrote out the tickets."
Corley and Ward have not yet retained lawyers for their fight, but Corley wondered if celebrated trial lawyer F. Lee Bailey might be interested.
Sharon Martin, chief of the county's public facilities division, which enforces the health code, said that if her division receives a written complaint about alleged smoking violations, a notice is sent to the individual or employer involved, informing them of the law and asking them not to do it again.
"If we receive additional complaints then we make an inspection and if we catch somebody we issue citations," Martin said.
She said she did not know how many complaints have been received or who had complained about the Sear's store in the first place.
Corley and Ward, however, said they had never been warned by their employers not to smoke, in the store. Printed signs prohibiting smoking are posted around the store.
After their citation, all employees were called together and explained the law, Corley said. "We were told that a section of the law that makes it unlawful for anone in control of a nosmoking area to premit smoking' applies to us," Corley said, tapping a copy of the law, which is now available for customers at the front counter.
"But can you imagine a commission salesman like me saying to a customer, 'Say, excuse me, but I can't sell you this until you stop smoking?' I'll enforce that when they give me a badge like (Goldenberg) has," he said.
Montgomery County Council member Esther P. Gelman, a sponsor of the ordinance and a former smoker, said, "This is a civil liberties measure. The objective was not to reform smokers, but to protect the civil liberties of those with respiratory handicaps. Those people have rights, too".
In Washington yesterday, a D.C. City Council committee removed some old teeth from a proposed antismoking bill and added some new teeth. Then the committee approved the legislation for consideration, probably next month, by the full council.
The committee on transportation and enviromental affairs approved an earlier version of the bill several weeks ago, but pulled it back to clarify some of its provisions.
Broadly, the measure would prohibit smoking in all public areas of D.C. government buildings, stores, theaters, meeting halls and other business establishments. It would permit smoking only in specified areas of restaurants.
The first version also would have prohibited smoking in "any place of work" - offices, industrial plants and factories, for example.
That provision was removed yesterday, and replaced by a bar against smoking in "any office which is frequented by the general public." In areas where the public does not generally visit, smoking could continue.
At the same time, the committee removed several exemptions that were in the earlier version of the bill. Under the revised measure, smoking would be prohibited in all hotel lobbies, barber shops, beauty salons and laundromats.
As the committee went down the list of restrictions, its chairman, Jerry A. Moore Jr. (R-At Large) and a Baptist minister, voiced some concern that the law might be viewed as extreme.
"One of the difficulties we have is that we (on the committee) are all nonsmokers . . . we are all like preachers and sin; we want to crush it all out," he said.