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Berkeley Co. to exempt tobacco stores from indoor air rules

May 21, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The Berkeley County Board of Health this week voted 2-0 to adopt changes to the county's indoor air regulation to exempt retail tobacco stores from the rules.

Board member George Karos was absent for the meeting on Monday and Ruby Foltz recently resigned from the board. Board chair Joy Buck, who only votes to break a tie, was not present for the meeting either, but authorized county health officer Diana Gaviria to preside in her absence, Berkeley County Health Department administrator Bill Kearns confirmed. Gaviria, according to state code, is to act as the board's secretary and is a nonvoting member.

The change to the smoking regulations currently affects two existing businesses, Kearns said. Both businesses and any new tobacco store must submit an application and the health department will verify that they comply with the guidelines that now have been adopted, Kearns said.

To be exempt from the clean air regulations, a retail establishment must derive more than 80 percent of its gross revenue from the sale of loose tobacco, cigars and tobacco smoking accessories

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According to the ordinance, the definition of a retail tobacco store that was added to the regulation is "a facility that is located in a structure or portion of a structure occupied solely by the business and smoke from the retail tobacco business does not migrate into an enclosed area where smoking is prohibited."

It also is served by a ventilation system that is separate from the ventilation system that serves smoke-free areas and prohibits the entry of persons under the age of 18, according to the ordinance.

Ed Trout, who has been selling tobacco, cigars and smoking accessories for 17 years in Martinsburg, requested the health department incorporate the exemption in the indoor air regulation.

"I'm very pleased that the Berkeley County health board was able to work with me on this issue," said Trout, who owns King Street Coffee & Tobacco Emporium.

Trout has said that at least 30 other counties in West Virginia had already adopted such an exemption for retail tobacco businesses.

In 2001, Trout received a exemption specifically for his business shortly after the Board of Health originally adopted its clean air regulations. That exemption, which was recently deemed to be legally questionable, also required that Trout not have any paid employees.

The changes approved Monday do not restrict employment.

Berkeley County Health Department administrator Bill Kearns said the agency only received two comments during the 30-day public comment period that was held about the changes after the board voted to consider the changes in March.

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