W.Va. county proposes smoking ban

June 10, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

Jefferson County health officials have proposed a Clean Indoor Air Regulation that would ban smoking in many enclosed public places in the county.

If it's approved, the ban would go into effect Sept. 1, James Hecker, chairman of the Board of Health, said.

Under the proposal, smoking would be banned in enclosed public places including grocery stores, retail stores, restaurants, elevators, restrooms, lobbies, reception areas, patient rooms, waiting rooms, hospitals, clinics, shopping malls, sports arenas, bingo and fire halls, bowling alleys and child-care centers.

The ban also would apply to all areas customarily used by the public, such as lawyers' offices, banks, laundromats and motels.


The ban would not apply to Charles Town Races & Slots, bars, specially designated smoking rooms in motels, retail tobacco stores, and private homes, except when homes are used as a full-time or part-time child care, adult care or health care facility.

Restaurants, motel conference rooms and public and private assembly rooms would be exempt from the ban when the facilities are being used for private functions, according to the proposal.

Charles Town Races & Slots would be exempt provided at least 10 percent of its slot machines are in a nonsmoking area, according to the proposal.

Ten percent of the track's slot machines already are in a nonsmoking area, track President Jim Buchanan said Monday.

The track would be exempt from the regulations because tracks typically have a lot of patrons who smoke, DeHaven said.

Racetracks in Delaware recently banned smoking at their facilities, a move that caused them to lose about 25 percent of their revenue, Buchanan said.

Buchanan said he met with Health Department officials about the proposed ban and thought it was a reasonable proposal.

Following suit

Regulations banning smoking have been passed in Berkeley and Morgan counties, as well as in other counties in the state, said Randy DeHaven, administrator of the Jefferson County Health Department.

Jefferson County Health Department officials began drafting a smoking ban after receiving inquiries - especially from people working in the health field - about why the county has not passed such regulations, DeHaven and Hecker said.

One reason such regulations had not been implemented was that there have been court challenges of such laws in other counties, DeHaven and Hecker said.

County health officials wanted to review those cases and avoid the areas that have been challenged, DeHaven said.

Another reason is that about 80 percent of establishments in the county have anti-smoking policies, Hecker said.

Under the ban, it would be the responsibility of all employers to provide smoke-free workplaces and to post a written policy outlining the ban.

Any food establishment that violates the ban could face suspension of its food service permit, the proposal says.

At the Independent Volunteer Fire Co. in Ranson, W.Va., about 80 percent of those who play bingo at the fire station every Monday night smoke, Fire Chief Ed Smith said.

But Smith said he realizes the importance of the ban and knows there will be no alternative but to enforce it.

Smith said the fire department may reorganize its bingo games, providing a second break during the games to give patrons a chance to go outside and smoke.

In other counties where smoking bans have been passed, there has been concern they would hurt business, DeHaven said.

Many businesses report an increase in business because nonsmokers are attracted to the smoke-free environments, DeHaven said.

A public hearing on the proposed ban will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Jefferson County Planning Commission meeting room at 108 E. Washington St. in Charles Town. The Board of Health will meet Friday at 1 p.m. at the Jefferson County Health Department in Bardane, W.Va., to consider passage of the regulations, Hecker said.

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