Legislation proposed in Virginia to allow smoking ban at public parks

A Virginia lawmaker has proposed a bill that would allow counties, cities and towns to decide whether to ban smoking at outdoor public spaces such as parks.

The legislation was introduced by State Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke) and would impose a $25 fine for those in violation of the ban.

Arlington County is likely to be a local jurisdiction that would be in favor of this proposed bill. While smoking is not currently banned, signs have been seen posted at public parks in the county asking people to not smoke within 50 feet of playgrounds, courts, fields and other recreation areas.

State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington), who also served chair of the Arlington County Board, said the proposal would likely face several challenges.

"The General Assembly in Virginia does not have a history of giving local governments more authority," she said. "They have a history of sort of rolling back authority from local governments. So I'm not sure that this is going to have a high probability of passage, but it will start a very interesting conversation."

Even if the bill were to become law, local jurisdictions would have to conduct public hearings. Lawmakers will discuss the proposal when the General Assembly returns to session next Wednesday.

In 2009, Virginia did pass a law prohibiting smoking inside restaurants, bars, lounges, convenience stores, gas stations, bowling alleys, skating rinks and other similar facilities that serve food.