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Tejada: Bill to Allow Localities to Ban Smoking in Parks Faces Short-Term Uphill Battle

Publication Date: 2012-01-10
  • Author:SCOTT McCAFFREY
  • Publication:‎Sun Gazette

County leaders are looking with some degree of hope at the effort to win General Assembly authority to permit localities to ban smoking in public parks. But they also recognize that it’s probably a multiyear effort with no guarantee of success at the end.

“I’m the eternal optimist,” said County Board Vice Chairman Walter Tejada, when asked about the chances of such a measure getting through the General Assembly during its 60-day session in 2012.But, Tejada acknowledged, “the reality is I’m not sure this will be high on the [legislature’s] priority list.”

Del. David Englin (D-45th) is patroning legislation that would permit localities to ban smoking in their local parks. Although state law is a little vague, it appears that Virginia’s cities, counties and towns do not have the power to do so without specific legislative authorization.

Arlington officials last year embarked on a public effort to encourage the public not to smoke in parks, with friendly signs spreading the message. Alexandria officials also have signs in their parks asking those visiting them not to light up.

Tejada, who helped spearhead the effort requesting that the public not smoke, said Englin’s bill wasn’t introduced at the direct request of Arlington or Alexandria, but that the localities certainly approve of its goals.

“We all buy into the philosophy,” he said. “Somebody has to build momentum.”

Boosters of the concept can draw strength from the experience of those who worked for years to win General Assembly legislation that restricts smoking in restaurants. After several years of trying, advocates got such a measure through the General Assembly in 2009, and it went into effect at the end of that year.