Del. Judith Toth (D-Montgomery) is deadly serious about banning alcohol and tobacco advertisements on buses, because, she says, the ads "stimulate people who are trying to quit."
But members of the House Ways and Means Committee who heard Toth testify last week on legislation to ban the ads were in a much more jovial mood, as lawmakers -- including the panel's vice chairman -- lit up cigars and generally gave her a hard time.
"I see you passed around your cigars," Toth said at one point.
"I remember, Judy, those cigar ads when I was a kid," said committee vice chairman Gerard Devlin (D-Prince George's), as he took a deep puff from a foot-long cigar. "And it's been downhill ever since."
Toth smiled at Devlin's remark, but she stressed that the ads were no laughing matter. Her daughter, who was treated for alcoholism two years ago, is faced with liquor and tobacco posters every time she boards the Washington Metro, Toth said.
"I'm not after anything earth-shattering at all," she said. "I don't believe people are going to stop smoking and drinking if the ads are not there. But I think that as a statement of public policy, the state should not be promoting substances that have been proven to be dangerous."
The Department of Fiscal Services has estimated that the state would lose $210,000 a year in taxes currently paid on the ads.
But Toth said the money could be replaced by other advertisers. "People are waiting in line to advertise," she said.
The legislation would ban smoking on all types of public transportation, except for the Metro line that stretches into the District of Columbia and Virginia.
Toth said if an arrangement could be worked out with those jurisdictions, the ban would be imposed on the Metro system. The bill keeps current advertising contracts in force until they are up for renewal.
But some committee members expressed concern that because public transit already bans smoking or drinking, the ads should be permitted as a compromise.
Grace Shapiro, of the American Lung Association of Maryland, told the panel the ads inspire teen-agers to pick up bad habits.
Shapiro said that in 1982, 111,000 persons died of lung cancer in Maryland.
"Kids get the idea from these advertisements that this is a glamorous introduction into the world of adulthood," Shapiro said, rattling off statistics on the dangers of drinking and puffing.