Smoke-Free Builds Momentum

State’s Leading Public Interest Group Joins Coalition

BALTIMORE –Maryland PIRG announced today that it has joined Smoke Free Maryland, the state’s largest coalition working to improve public health by banning smoking in all workplaces including restaurants and bars. Maryland PIRG is the state’s leading public interest advocacy group, with over 12,000 members throughout Maryland.

“We are excited to work with this great coalition,” said Maryland PIRG Policy Advocate, Johanna Neumann.

“Maryland PIRG brings a lot to the table and we are excited to have them on board,” said Claire Mullins of the American Lung Association of Maryland.

An internet poll to Maryland PIRG’s online activists this week showed that 88% of the nearly 500 respondents supported smoke-free restaurants and bars. The recent Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of secondhand smoke, and decisions in fourteen other states to extend clean air protections to all indoor workplaces further spurred the group’s action to join the coalition.

“Second-hand smoke kills,” said Neumann. “Maryland banned workplace smoking over ten years ago, but left out restaurants and bars. It is time to close the loophole that is killing one thousand Marylanders every year.”

Legislators have considered a comprehensive smoke free workplace bill since 2002, but big tobacco has blocked its passage each year. Many counties have taken the lead and passed smoke-free regulations on their own, including Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Talbot counties.

The Baltimore city council will take up smoke-free legislation this fall. Gubenatorial candidate and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley has not yet weighed in on the city-wide proposal.

“Baltimore City now has the opportunity to take the lead in protecting its workers and citizens,” said Neumann.