The following was among items discussed at Tuesday's meeting of the Montgomery County Council. For more information, call 217-7900.
ANTI-SMOKING BILL -- The council unanimously approved legislation that bans or severely restricts smoking in virtually all public and private buildings that serve the public.
The bill prohibits smoking in county auditoriums, concert and lecture halls, the public areas of banks, offices, factories, retail stores and other businesses.
The bill generally bans smoking in "large, open indoor spaces" such as hotel and theater lobbies and the common areas in shopping malls, and in retail stores with more than two employees on a shift.
Under the bill, stores and other private businesses could open smoking lounges for the public. The lounge would have to be a closed room and be used exclusively for smoking. Employees of these businesses may continue to smoke, but only in private areas.
Current law prohibits smoking in retail stores with more than eight employees on a shift.
One of the more controversial sections of the new law bans smoking in reception areas of private offices where there is more than one "practicioner."
Council member William E. Hanna Jr., who sponsored the legislation, criticized some of the amendments added during committee work sessions as "going too far." Hanna was particularly critical of amendments extending the smoking prohibition to reception areas of private offices and to bowling alleys, where he said smoking is part of the "ambiance."
Council Michael L. Gudis, the council's only smoker, said while he supported the thrust of the law, extending the smoking ban to private office suites was "Big Brother in traditional form."
The council declined to act in its role as the county's Board of Health, which would have permitted it to impose the law on all of the county's municipalities. The council instead will send a letter to cities and towns in the county encouraging them to adopt similar legislation. The law will apply in Barnesville, Brookeville and Chevy Chase Section 5, following actions by those municipalities.
The penalty for breaking the new smoking regulations is $25 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses.