Butts out in city parks?

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Butts out in city parks?
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If not in restaurants, why not in parks? Alexandria will consider a new smoking ban when City Council returns this fall.

According to the Parks and Recreation magazine, published by the National Parks and Recreation Association, many localities are banning smoking in public parks. The city of Pasadena, Calif., has such a ban and Oceanside, also in California, has banned smoking in parks, on beaches and on peers. Statewide, California has banned smoking within 25 feet of playgrounds and tot lots and banned the disposal of tobacco products in this same area.

Alexandrias own attempt at imposing a ban on smoking in restaurants seems to have hit a roadblock with the Virginia Attorney Generals opinion that such a ban would violate the Dillon Rule, precluding localities from doing anything not specifically authorized by the General Assembly, so why not try something different? That was Judy Noritakes thought when she saw the article on smoking bans in public parks in the June issue of Parks and Recreation magazine.

There are a whole set of different issues with banning smoking in public parks, Noritake said. They are public property; property that the city controls. Perhaps we should start there.

Noritake, the chairman of the citys Parks and Recreation Commission, contacted Mayor Bill Euille, who encouraged her to put the matter on the Commissions September agenda.

Im not sure what kind of a recommendation will emerge from the Commission but it could be as strict as banning smoking in any public park to banning smoking in all waterfront parks to simply banning smoking within 25 feet of playgrounds and tot lots. We will have to see what the Commission says when we meet on Sept. 20. Its on our agenda, she said.

Statewide smoking ban
Last year, the General Assembly came close to passing a smoking ban in restaurants. We really are surprisingly close to having the votes to pass such legislation, said Delegate Adam Ebbin (D-49). That would be the right thing to do.

While Delegate Brian Moran (D-46) agrees with that sentiment, he is a realist. I think were going to have to do this incrementally.Perhaps starting with public parks is a good idea, he said.

The city is likely to include a recommendation for a statewide ban on smoking in restaurants in its 2008 legislative packet but will consider the Parks and Recreation Commissions recommendation on a smoking ban in public parks in October. If Council adopts such a ban, the matter could be challenged in court.

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