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Fairfax official pushes smoking ban on public property

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Photo - Woman Smoking
Woman Smoking
Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland,Fairfax County

A Fairfax official with a history of pushing anti-smoking legislation wants to keep members of the general public from lighting up on county property.

Supervisor Gerry Hyland, D-Mount Vernon, and the county's Board of Supervisors will discuss potentially banning smoking in many open-air locations as early as this week in an effort to promote healthier lifestyles.

"I would like the board to endorse legislation that would grant more authority to local governments to extend the prohibition to other areas like our public parks, public schools grounds, playgrounds and other appropriate locations deemed by the board," Hyland said.

Hyland, a 25-year veteran of the board, had been pushing similar legislation since November that would've banned smoking by current county employees and permitted the county to consider job applicants' use of tobacco products when hiring them.

That proposal was shot down last month, however, when County Attorney David Bobzien ruled that state law prohibited Fairfax from imposing such stiff regulations.

Now Hyland has turned his attention to enhancing the county's current training program to help -- but not require -- employees to quit smoking, while also prohibiting residents and employees alike from smoking on many public sites.

But even to enforce that, the county would need to get permission from the state's General Assembly, Bobzien said in a Dec. 7 memo to board members.

"Any place that's enclosed we ought to be banning it because you're putting other people at risk," said Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield. "I don't believe in [banning it in open-air spaces], but if there's a public health issue, then we should examine it."

It's illegal for people to light up in county-owned bus shelters, a violation that costs offenders $25, as well as inside county buildings and many restaurants.

In Montgomery County, similar legislation that would ban smoking on all county-owned property, both indoors and outdoors, is currently under consideration.

Supervisor John Cook, R-Braddock, said he was unsure if he would support Hyland's most recent request but commended him for sticking with an issue that hits close to home. Hyland's father was a smoker and died of lung cancer.

The issue could come up as early as Friday at the county's Legislative Committee meeting.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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