Cabell considers smoking ban in bars, gambling parlors

Cabell County bars and video lottery parlors could become smoke-free in the near future.

The Cabell-Huntington Health Department is drafting a proposal that would ban smoking from bars and gambling parlors, said Dr. Harry Tweel, the health department’s executive director. It likely will conduct a public hearing on it within the next month, he said.

“Our board of health has been looking at this issue for some time and monitoring what’s happening in other counties around the state,” Tweel said. “They are aware of the health risks caused by exposure to secondhand smoke in public venues and, as a result, they’ve asked us to look into the issue of extending our clean indoor air regulation to bars.

“From a health standpoint, it’s the right thing to do.”

The proposed regulation and feedback from the public hearing is expected to be addressed at the Cabell-Huntington Board of Health’s next meeting on Jan. 27. It’s too early to tell whether the board will take a vote on the regulation at the meeting, Tweel said.

“The proposal will be patterned after federal and state recommendations and will be compatible with our current clean indoor air regulation,” he said.

Cabell County adopted its existing regulation in December 2001, but it drew opposition from several business owners, four of which challenged it in court. After two years of legal battles, the state Supreme Court of Appeals ruled in December 2003 that the regulation could take effect.

Under Cabell’s existing regulation, smoking is banned in all restaurants and workplaces. Bingo halls, personal care homes and establishments where alcohol represents more than 80 percent of sales are exempt from the regulation.

Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, several counties have adopted comprehensive clean indoor air regulations that include bars and gambling parlors, said Christina Mickey, project coordinator for the Smokefree Initiative of West Virginia.

Nineteen counties have comprehensive regulations, Mickey said. Lincoln County became the first to do so in 2001.

“Local boards of health are on sound, legal footing when it comes to protecting bar employees from secondhand smoke,” Mickey said. “They are the ones who need protection the most.”

Kanawha County extended its clean indoor air regulation to cover bars, gambling parlors and Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center in July 2008.

A handful of bars and gambling parlors openly defied the ban, which led the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department to filing charges against six establishments earlier this year.
Most establishments, however, have complied with the provisions of the ban, according to Kanawha County health officials. During the first year it was in effect, health officials found 177 violations during 3,174 inspections. Many of the violations were resolved during follow-up inspections.

The Kanawha smoking ban also has spurred efforts by Nitro city officials to be placed under the jurisdiction of the Putnam County Health Department. The move is an attempt to bypass the Kanawha ban, which affects Nitro’s Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center.

The Kanawha-Putnam county line runs through Nitro, but the racetrack is in Kanawha County.


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