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Smokers Breathe Easier in Montgomery

US lawmakers in Montgomery County, facing a backlash at home and worldwide scrutiny, have ditched plans to fine people who annoy their neighbours by smoking at home.

Under the planned legislation, people in the district outside Washington would have faced a penalty of up to 750 dollars if their cigarette smoke wafted into a neighbour's home through a door, window, or vent.

Montgomery County chief executive Douglas Duncan, who had vowed to pass the legislation, vetoed it on Tuesday.

"It has become clear that the tobacco smoke provisions will be nothing more than a tool to be used in squabbles between neighbors, and that significant resources will be required to address these complaints," he said in a statement.

The revised legislation on indoor pollution, passed by county council members on November 20, dropped an exemption for tobacco smoke.

"We have become the laughing stock of the world," council member Michael Subin was quoted as saying in the Washington Post.

The Moscow Times had run a column on the issue and one resident had compared the council to Afghanistan's ruling Taliban in an interview on ABC television, the paper said.

"While I fully support restricting smoking in public places I am aghast at the prospect of such ridiculous antics arising from this council," one resident wrote, the Washington Post said.

The legislation clearly alarmed some residents. One question-and-answer sheet provided by the council to calm their fears included the query: "Can I still smoke in my own home?"

When the legislation was first passed, one council member, Isiah Legget, declared: "This does not mean you cannot smoke in your house. What it does say is that your smoke cannot cross property lines."


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