Alexandria goes smoke free?

Different states have different rules for how autonomous cities can get with their laws. Virginia is one of those states where if the legislature in Richmond doesn’t explicitly say a city can do something, then the city can’t do it. Since Virginia has a booming tobacco growing industry, one of the things that Richmond hasn’t said cities can do is ban smoking.

But those wily Alexandrians have a plan. Taking a cue from DC, they are considering a ban on public smoking. How can they do this without the ok from Richmond you ask? By playing fast and loose with zoning laws. The Washington Post reported the other day that Alexandria officials are going to create a de facto ban on smoking with land-use permits. Richmond allows cities to issue permits for restaurants and businesses. So Alexandria figures that every time a new restaurant wants to open, the city can refuse to issue the permit unless the restaurant agrees to be smoke free. Existing restaurants wouldn’t be initially effected, but if they ever wanted to renovate or get their liquor license renewed they’d have to agree to go smoke free or risk getting shut down.

For a while, Alexandria will be a very uneven place, where new restaurants and bars will be smoke free, while older ones won’t. Probably a few stubborn owners will never go smoke free, or maybe the whole thing will eventually get struck down by the courts for being illegal. Maybe Virginia will change their laws and allow cities to ban smoking. It’ll be an interesting experiment.

What do you think? Should Alexandria ban smoking in public places? And do you think that they should be allowed to get away with it, even though the state government pretty much already said no?

7 Comments so far

  1. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on March 3rd, 2007 @ 2:46 pm

    Ban it. If the locality thinks their populace will support a smoking ban in restaurants & bars, the locality ought to do it, no matter what those bastards in Richmond (still influenced by years and years of tobacco money) say the cities can and can’t do.


  2. meghan (unregistered) on March 3rd, 2007 @ 10:57 pm

    I used to live in VA before moving to California, and if you haven’t experienced smoke free bars you don’t know what you are missing. It is SO NICE to be able to go out and not come home smelling like a cigarette. I am moving back to Alexandria, and one of the things I was dreading is the smokey bars so I really hope this plan of theirs works. I know I will definitely go to the newer smoke free places if i have a choice.


  3. MBFan#2 (unregistered) on March 4th, 2007 @ 8:57 am

    I agree – with DC going smoke-free and having now been to NYC and Philadelphia where there are smoke-free bans at restaurants and bars, it is awesome to not have to deal with the smell in your clothes and hair and skin. I live in VA and I dread going out to bars there now, unless there is a no-smoking section to hang in. I’m definitely behind Alexandria all the way and if all of Northern VA follows suit, all the better!


  4. MBFan#2 (unregistered) on March 4th, 2007 @ 9:00 am

    Oops, I meant “smoking” bans, instead of “smoke-free” bans. I shouldn’t be commenting so early in the morning on Sun.


  5. Krempasky (unregistered) on March 4th, 2007 @ 10:59 am

    Tom – unfortunately, the Richmond connection really isn’t one of tobacco. Generally and broadly, cities in Virginia are simply chartered a little differently than in other states. They just don’t have certain powers (like collecting certain kinds of taxes)


  6. Carl Weaver (unregistered) on March 4th, 2007 @ 3:45 pm

    I say let the folks in Alexandria (or anywhere) create the type of environment they want. Smoke-free is certainly better than smoke-filled in my opinion but the bigger question is whether cities should be able to legislate like this without state (or commonwealth) approval. Hell yes they should, mostly.


  7. FYI (unregistered) on March 4th, 2007 @ 4:50 pm

    “Virginia is one of those states where if the legislature in Richmond doesn’t explicitly say a city can do something, then the city can’t do it.”

    For those who are interested in the legal aspects of this, here’s a discussion (Dillon’s Rule in Virginia, in the context here of sprawl)
    http://www.madisonmatters.com/Government/dillon_villain.html



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