To the People

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Friday, March 07, 2008

In a Bar in Baltimore and Need a Smoke? Walk to Pennsylvania

150 feet is a long ways away. Contrast 150 feet to the standard 15 feet distance that some smoke-free municipalities demand in their bans.
BALTIMORE (Map, News) - Banished smokers taking nicotine breaks outside bars in one of Baltimore City’s trendy neighborhoods are being told to move or face fines and arrest for loitering, bar owners said.

Hampden bar owners said they were shocked last week when police began warning patrons to move 150 feet away from the entrance of bars they were patronizing or face loitering charges.

“Loitering has always been a legitimate problem in the neighborhood that we couldn’t get police to deal with,” said Benn Ray, owner of Atomic Books and head of the Hampden Village Merchants Association.

“So why all of sudden is the Police Department being aggressive with smokers when they haven’t been enforcing loitering laws for 10 years?”
Maybe not in Hampden, but in the grimier neighborhoods of Baltimore, police in the past have had little problem in strictly enforcing the loitering laws. More:
At Frazier’s, a popular Hampden hangout, day manager Tabrina Sherman said the message police gave to patrons smoking outside her bar was clear.

“They were told they need to move 150 feet away or they will be fined first and arrested the second time.”

City officials said enforcing loitering laws has grown trickier since the statewide smoking ban went into effect Feb. 1.

“Particularly in front of bars where there have been a history of problems, we have asked patrols to be aggressive to enforce the loitering laws; however, the smoking ban changes the dynamic,” said Sterling Clifford, spokesman for the Police Department.

“This is an unintended consequence of two well-intentioned laws.”
Predictable. Every single bit of it. And it will only get worse has smokers adjust their habits and began to smoke as much as they were pre-ban once they get used to going outside for a smoke. Residents will start complaining about the increased noise in the early morning hours, and before you know it I'll be forced to smoke on a barge in the Patapsco River. Which minus the fish-kills and dead bodies, I'm sure would be a lovely experience.

Full article here.

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