The outpost of the PC Patrol in control of a rural county in Virginia may have a bit of trouble in extending their smoking ban, in an effort to drive out tobacco-friendly businesses and groups.
Madison County is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and is locally known for its wineries, antiques and apples. County officials, though, want it to be known as a place that’s unfriendly to those who enjoy the legal product of tobacco. The Madison County Health Department wants to strengthen its indoor-smoking ban to include tobacconists, private smoking clubs and hookah bars.
The Richmond Register reports the county’s Board of Health has voted to amend the current smoking ban to, among other things, change the definition of smoking to include so-called “e-cigarettes.” The electronic cigarette is a tobacco alternative that provides inhaled, vaporized doses of a nicotine or non-nicotine solution. If the amendment passes in its current form, e-cigarettes would join the list of items banned from being smoked indoors.
In addition, the board is directly targeting tobacco stores in the county, by effectively extending the ban to tobacconists in the county. Specifically, the board deleted in the proposed amendment an exemption for where smoking is not regulated, which encompassed retail tobacco stores, according to the Register.
Finally, the board moved to forbid temporary private smoking clubs and hookah bars from opening in Madison County by changing the definition of a private club to include those two entity types.
Enter State Law
The Board of Health is now waiting on a legal review from the county attorney, whose recommendations will be reviewed at its next regular meeting, scheduled for early December. The PC Patrol there may find doing that to be more than a bit tricky.
According to the state’s already-existing indoor smoking ban, local governments cannot regulate smoking by enacting laws more stringent than what the state already has in place. Already, a smoking ban specifically targeted at restaurants in the City of Norfolk was repealed by its City Council in early 2008, because the city’s attorney said their law would violate Virginia state law and would not survive legal challenges.
Stogie’d notes that two recent Richmond Register stories on the recent move by the county health board did not note the “more stringent” aspect of Virginia state law, nor did it mention the two-plus year old action in Norfolk.
What’s In … and Out
Exempted in the state ban, enacted in late 2009, are (according to Wikipedia):
… private clubs, retail tobacco stores, tobacco warehouses, tobacco manufacturing facilities, prisons, designated smoking areas in government offices, food preparation facilities for catering services, restaurants located on the premises of tobacco manufacturers, [and] rented private rooms in restaurants …
Smoking in restaurants and bars is restricted to structurally separate and independently ventilated designated smoking rooms. The state also requires the reasonable designation of non-smoking areas in educational facilities where smoking is not banned, hospitals, retail stores bigger than 15,000 square feet and recreational facilities.
Virginia’s indoor smoking ban does apply to:
… enclosed public elevators, public school buses, primary and secondary schools, hospital emergency rooms, health department offices, polling places, indoor service lines and cashier lines, public restrooms in government buildings and hospitals, child daycare centers except where located in a private home, and public restrooms of health care facilities.
Smoking in state-owned vehicles, offices and buildings (except for correctional facilities) has been banned since 2006, under an executive order written by then-Governor Tim Kaine (D).
Virginia is known for its rich history in the tobacco industry, being one of the primary states to have grown it in early America. The state is home to several tobacco companies including Altria, located just north of Richmond. Other tobacco-related companies outside the state use the word “Virginia” in their name and/or products.
Source: Richmond Register