Fairfax County bans smoking in bus shelters

By Kafia A. Hosh
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 19, 2010; 7:16 PM

No more lighting up while you wait for the bus in Fairfax County - at least under cover.

After a public hearing Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a ban on smoking in county-owned bus shelters. Violators will be fined up to $25 under the ban, which takes effect Dec. 1.

The Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act requires state agencies and localities to consider reasonable no-smoking areas in any building they own or lease. The ban comes after the state's prohibition on smoking in restaurants, and the legislation repeals a section of the county code that requires restaurants to designate a percentage of their seating as no-smoking areas.

Larry Sternbane, a regular Richmond Highway Express (REX) bus commuter, encouraged the supervisors to pass the smoking ban.

"I just don't think people should be able to smoke in a bus shelter and expose others to secondhand smoke," he said.

Sternbane was the only member of the public who spoke on the proposal, but supervisors sympathized with nonsmokers, who sometimes have to share the confined spaces with people who pass the time by smoking.

"I had the uncomfortable situation of sitting in the bus shelter in the rain . . . covered in cigarette smoke," said Supervisor Jeff C. McKay (D-Lee), who rides the REX bus.

The ban does not require smokers to stand a minimum distance away from a bus shelter.

"You could have somebody standing outside that line and have as much smoke coming into the shelter as if you were in the shelter," Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) said.

That is because Fairfax has to work within state law, officials said.

"Its not perfect, but it's a major step forward," McKay said.

The county will post no-smoking signs in its 214 bus shelters. Each sign costs $2.

Fairfax police will be responsible for enforcing the ban.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company