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Hot This Season: No Smoking in Outdoor Venues

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As farmers markets around the country open for the spring season, one market is literally clearing the air for spring veggies. The weekly Baltimore Farmers Market & Bazaar instituted a no smoking ban for the first time in its 34 years of selling locally grown and produced goods.

Supporters of the ban view the family friendly venue as a great place to go smoke free. Tobacco smoke contains a deadly mixture of more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds, said a U.S. Surgeon General’s Report released in December, 2010. Exposure to these chemicals can damage DNA in a way that leads to cancer. Even in open areas people need to be at least 23 feet away from a smoker to escape the health risks of second-hand smoke, according to a 2005 University of Maryland study.

“A market that sells cheese made from the milk of Garrett County goats, bacon from hormone-free Carroll County hogs, and heirloom apples from Western Maryland is not likely to be a gathering spot for people who want their lungs filled with tobacco smoke (whether or not the tobacco was locally grown),” said an editorial written in the Baltimore Sun.

But it’s not just farmers markets going smoke free this season. In February 2011, New York City passed one of the nation’s toughest cigarette laws banning smoking in public parks, plazas and beaches.

“This summer, New Yorkers who go to our parks and beaches for some fresh air and fun will be able to breathe even cleaner air and sit on a beach not littered with cigarette butts,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

The smoking ban will cover 1,700 parks and 14 miles of public beaches plus boardwalks, marinas and pedestrian plazas like the one in the heart of Times Square.

While health advocates applaud these new laws for outdoor spaces, others wonder if the laws go too far in violating personal rights. Everyone knows smoking is a bad habit, but it’s an addiction that can be tough to kick.

In New York City smoking is down since 2002 when the Clean Indoor Air Act banned smoking in bars and restaurants. Still, almost 16 percent of New Yorkers smoke. Back in Baltimore about 27 percent of adults are smokers.

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