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Outdoor smoking ban takes effect in Montgomery Co.

Businesses in Montgomery County, Maryland, have to deal with new regulations as an outdoor smoking ban took effect Thursday.

Under the law, bars and restaurants will not be able to allow smoking in outdoor seating areas where food is served such as patios, decks and porches.

The ban extends to electronic cigarettes and vaping.

“Prohibiting smoking in outdoor seating areas provides for a healthier environment for both patrons and employees,” said Montgomery County Councilman Sidney Katz, a strong supporter of the change.

Businesses that refuse to comply could be fined $50.

The law does not apply to outdoor seating areas associated with golf courses or to any businesses with outdoor balconies and rooftop serving areas.

Ronnie Heckman, the owner of Caddies On Cordell in Bethesda, said the new rules amount to overregulation by the local government.

“It’s a shame that our county council doesn’t care about restaurants and small business,” Heckman said. “Most establishments already don’t allow smoking.”

The president and CEO of the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce, Ginanne Italiano, said the bill is not everything the chamber had hoped for. It wanted restaurants that already provide outdoor smoking areas to be grandfathered in. But “at the end of the day, this is a great compromise,” she said.

When the bill was passed in March, Councilman Evan Glass explained his own conflicting feelings.

“My mother died at the age of 53 because of lung cancer, so I understand the impact that smoking has — on all of us,” he said.

But Glass added that he had been a supporter of promoting Montgomery County’s night life economy, and that included supporting businesses that have smokers among their most-loyal customers.

Both Rockville and Gaithersburg have already enacted similar outdoor seating smoking bans, as have more than 300 counties or municipalities across the country.

Smoking inside of restaurants or bars in Montgomery County has been against the law since 2003.

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