Following the adoption of tough anti-smoking measures elsewhere in the area, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will consider next week similar restrictions on the distribution of cigarettes and tobacco products.
But before any changes can be made in county laws, the state legislature almost certainly will have to give its approval.
Fairfax Supervisor Gerald Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) said yesterday that he has been barraged with phone calls from around the state in support of and in opposition to his proposal to seek a countywide ban on cigarette vending machines when the Board of Superivisors meets on Monday.
"I'm just trying to do what I think is the right thing," said Hyland, whose father died of lung cancer at the age of 50. "The American Lung Association contacted me about these issues and asked me to introduce them. I said I would bring this up to the board."
In addition to a ban on vending machines, Hyland will ask fellow supervisors to increase the county's legal age for the purchase of tobacco products from 16 to 18, and to restrict free or low-cost tobacco products.
A spokesman for the Tobacco Institute, in the District, said the industry supports Hyland's goal of restricting tobacco use by minors, including raising the legal purchase age to 18, but it strongly opposes a ban on vending machines.
A ban "goes way too far," said Thomas Lauria of the Tobacco Institute. "You don't have to wipe out a small industry to curtail youth access. Eight out of 10 machines are located in taverns, factories or areas where children are not allowed or unlikely to frequent."
Last month the D.C. Council approved an anti-smoking measure that bans the sale of cigarettes to persons younger than 18 and restricts cigarette vending machines to nightclubs and restaurants that serve hard liquor. The Takoma Park City Council last July banned cigarette vending machines in premises accessible to children.
Several municipalities in the Washington area, including Fairfax, have established smoke-free areas in public buildings and in some restaurants.
Although Hyland believes he has enough board votes to get his proposals passed, the county will almost certainly first have to go to Richmond to get state lawmakers' approval to pass the measure.
Under the so-called Dillon Rule, Virginia counties are restricted as to what laws they can pass without first obtaining approval from state legislators.
"I know it is going to be tough sledding," Hyland said.
Virginia ranks second among the 50 states in the manufacture of cigarettes and fifth in tobacco cultivation, according to a study by the Tobacco Institute. About 46,300 people work in Virginia's cigarette industry, equal to 1.8 percent of the work force.
Del. Bernard S. Cohen (D-Alexandria), who has championed legislative efforts in Richmond to restrict smoking, said he thinks Hyland's proposal has a "decent chance" of passing the legislature.
Board members Thomas M. Davis III (R-Mason) and Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville) said they will support Hyland's proposal.
Others, including Chairman Audrey Moore (D) and Sharon Bulova (D-Annandale), said they were in favor of the goals, but wanted to see Hyland's specifics before they gave support.
"I'm going to wait and listen to his rationale," Bulova said. "Maybe I'm sympathetic to what he wants to do by banning vending machines, but I want to give it some more thought."
The county Board of Supervisors is expected Monday to consider legislation that would:
Place a countywide ban on all cigarette vending machines.
Raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 16 years old to 18.
Restrict distribution of free samples or discount priced tobacco products in the county.
The City Council last July voted to:
Ban cigarette vending machines in areas accessible to children.
Ban smoking in day-care centers.
Ban free distribution of tobacco products.
The D.C. Council last month approved a measure that:
Bans sale of cigarettes to persons under age 18.
Allows vending machine sales of cigarettes only in nightclubs and restaurants that serve hard liquor.
Requires the D.C. government and private workplaces to adopt policies that limit or ban smoking areas.
Bans free distribution of cigarettes on street corners and public parks.