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New Signs Discourage Smoking in County Parks

by ARLnow.com | November 8, 2011 at 11:16 am | 3,007 views | 195 Comments

As part of its new “Smoke-Free Parks Initiative,” Arlington County has placed ‘no smoking’ signs in more than a dozen county parks.

But while many government signs convey a law — a ‘no littering’ sign, for instance — the new signs have the word “Please” above “No [Smoking],” since Arlington doesn’t actually have the authority to outlaw smoking in parks. Rather than a ban, Arlington is simply asking smokers to voluntarily refrain from smoking within 50 feet of playgrounds, courts, ball fields, pavilions, recreation areas and other “areas of congregation.”

“To the extent possible, it is important for the County to take action to prevent park patrons’ exposure to this dangerous health hazard,” Arlington County explains on its website. “Children may be especially vulnerable, which is why the Smoke-Free Parks Initiative is specifically targeting areas where children congregate.”

To help spur public awareness of the new initiative, the Arlington parks and recreation department is encouraging Facebook fans to post photos of themselves giving a thumbs up in front of the signs. County Board members Mary Hynes, Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman are leading by example by being the first to flash a big thumbs up next to the signs (above).

The parks department will also be holding a “Smoke-Free Parks Kickoff” event at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 17 in Bon Air Park (850 N. Lexington Street). The event is being held in conjunction with the Great American Smokeout.

Currently, the ‘no smoking’ signs are in place at the following parks: Bluemont, Bon Air, Quincy, Barcroft, Virginia Highlands, Long Bridge and Big Walnut, Chestnut Hills, Ft. C.F. Smith, Tuckahoe, Westover, Fields and Lubber Run. More signs are on the way, we’re told.

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | November 2, 2011 at 8:52 am | 1,627 views | 56 Comments

Goldman Sachs Invests in Rosslyn — Investment giant Goldman Sachs has acquired a majority stake in 3 million square feet of office space in Rosslyn. The acquisition includes trophy properties like the gleaming metal-and-glass 1000 and 1100 Wilson Boulevard towers. The office space represents 30 percent of Rosslyn’s 10 million square feet of commercial real estate. [Washington Post, BusinessWire]

County Wants Residents to Stop Smoking in Parks — Arlington’s parks department is planning on politely asking visitors to county parks to refrain from smoking near ballfields, pavilions and playgrounds. The initiative will use signs, not the force of law, to try to get visitors to comply. [Sun Gazette]

Reagan Statue Unveiled at DCA — A 9-foot bronze statue of President Ronald Reagan was unveiled yesterday at the airport that bears his name. The $900,000 statue, located in front of Terminal A of Reagan National Airport, was paid for by the private Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. [Washington Times]

Flickr pool photo by Christaki

Poll: Tax Tobacco to Pay for Medicaid?

by ARLnow.com | January 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm | 4,079 views | 60 Comments

Del. Patrick Hope (D), who represents part of Arlington in the Virginia House of Delegates, has proposed a bill that would raise taxes on tobacco products to fill several gaps in the state’s Medicaid budget.

The bill would raise the tax on cigarettes from the current $0.015 per cigarette to the national average of $0.0725 per cigarette, or $1.45 per pack. Virginia currently has the lowest cigarette tax in the U.S.

The bill would also raise the tax on snuff and other tobacco products. Cigars would be taxed at 50 percent of the wholesale price, up from 10 percent.

Hope’s legislation would direct 52 percent of the additional tax revenue (estimated at about $250 million) to fund Medicare waivers for intellectual and developmental disabilities. Forty percent of the revenue (about $150 million) would go to Medicaid reimbursement for physicians and hospitals. And 8 percent (about $30 million) would be split among the state tobacco quitline and a youth tobacco prevention program.

“Virginia’s Medicaid budget is on an unsustainable course,” Hope said in a statement. “Cuts to Medicaid only result in higher costs down the road. The sick end up in the hospital and ERs for costly medical procedures and avoidable hospitalizations; and individuals with disabilities wind up in institutions rather than being served in their communities for a fraction of the cost. This proposal will take a significant step in preserving and protecting the Medicaid program for future generations and will fulfill a promise to Virginia’s families.”

What do you think?

Virginia has traditionally been one of the more tobacco-friendly states in the country, making consideration and passage of such a bill an uphill battle. Hope has received public words of encouragement, however, from a number of influential health-related organizations, like the Medical Society of Virginia, the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.

See the press release prepared by Hope’s office, after the jump.

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