The village of Friendship Heights is "willing to stick its neck out," said an official of the Chevy Chase area community of 5,000.
In the past few years it has tried to ban bullets and cigarette vending machines. And this time the village is going after cigarette-smoking teen-agers.
The village gained final approval last week from the Montgomery County Council for its ordinance banning the sale of cigarettes to minors. State law bans cigarette sales to persons under age 15.
Friendship Heights has a largely adult population and at most 10 vending machines and over-the-counter operations selling cigarettes. Village officials acknowledge that the new law is primarily a stand against smoking itself.
"It's not going to do a whole lot by itself, but it will call attention . . .to the fact that smoking is a health and safety concern," said Dr. Alfred Muller, an internist who is chairman of the Village Council.
"It's controversial, but that doesn't mean it should be avoided," Muller said. "Everybody from the president on down says that local communities should be doing more. And you can't be more local than a village council."
Similar legislation being considered by a judicial proceedings committee of the Maryland Senate would make it unlawful in the state for a retailer to sell cigarettes to persons under age 18 unless authorized to do so by a parent or guardian.
Under the Friendship Heights law, which goes into effect March 26, merchants are required to monitor customers using their vending machines and post notice of the regulations. Violators of the law would be subject to fines of up to $500, while youths who buy cigarattes would not.
But there is confusion among village officials as to what stores or vending machines the law will regulate. Some vending machines are in high-rise condominium apartment buildings with public access to lobby-level grocery stores or delicatessens where cigarettes are sold.
And methods of enforcement have not been formulated, Village Manager Alice Bushnell said. The town's security patrol does not have the power to write tickets for such violations, Muller said.
The law's apparent lack of enforceability is what prompted Village Council Secretary Jessie S. Gertman to cast the lone dissenting vote against the legislation. "I don't believe in taking empty stands. You should be able to carry it [a law] out and enforce it," Gertman said. "Otherwise, you are just trying to get cheap publicity."