After a heated and raucous public meeting, the Alexandria City Council voted unanimously to use its zoning powers to ban smoking in restaurants, an unusual tactic opponents said would lead to costly lawsuits.
Many states and cities, including Maryland and the District, have banned smoking in public places, but the Virginia legislature severely limits local authority in such issues. Alexandria has opted to use the power it does have -- in this case, control over land-use regulation -- to force restaurant owners to go smoke-free or lose their operating permits. It is the first jurisdiction in Virginia to take such action.
Should the Arlington County Board take a similar approach to ban smoking here in Arlington? After all, President Bush's own surgeon general has declared, "The debate is over. [Secondhand smoke] causes disease and kills people."
While many Arlington restaurants have gone smoke-free -- the Arlington Civic Federation maintains a great list -- few popular bars are smoke-free. Arlington's most popular happy hour spots -- Rock Bottom, Carpool, Whitlow's, Front Page, Dr. Dremo's, Mister Days -- all allow smoking.
Should Arlington use its zoning powers to ban smoking in bars and restaurants, even at the risk of a lawsuit?