Board of health disagrees if smoking indoors should be allowed

PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) – The Putnam County Board of Health debated a revised indoor air quality regulation on Tuesday evening.

The current regulations, which were last updated in 2007, allow smoking inside public establishments as long as there is a “warning” on all doors, and the establishment prohibits all. person 17 years of age or younger to enter the business.

Tuesday evening, the council considered a draft proposal for a new law, which would eliminate smoking inside establishments. The project came from other countries that adopted the elimination of smoking regulations.

“As we received public feedback, we then looked at how strict we wanted to be and continue to keep the community safe in any way we could,” said Cindy Farley, Chairman of the Board of administration, at WSAZ. “We believe this is a way for us to keep community members safe, but to give some responsibility and authority to business owners so they can run their own businesses.”

During the meeting, two representatives from companies that allow indoor smoking spoke, as well as a representative from the Putnam County Wellness Coalition.

“I think Putnam County business owners should decide whether or not to smoke in their business. No government entity, at any level, should be able to tell a business owner how to run their business until the business is guilty of illegal activities, ”said Patrick Lucas, owner. by Almost Havana Cigar Lounge. “Smoking is a legal activity. “

“Despite the additional harms of a virus that causes a pandemic, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death each year,” said Evan Young of the Putnam Wellness Coalition. “Adopting a 100% smoke-free workplace and public places sends a positive message to the community that health and safety is the priority. “

After the public comment period, the three board members: Farley, Andy Skidmore and Dave Rossi reached an agreement that business owners should have the choice of whether or not to allow smoking. Therefore, the council revised its original 2007 version of the law to raise the age from 18 to 21, when it comes to allowing people to enter smoking establishments, and adding cigarettes. electronic or vapers to the law.

“The first draft was very specific about banning smoking all over the county, so if we want to go back a bit on that and go back to the old (version) with just a few changes, then we have to go back to ( public comment), “Farley told WSAZ.” “

Health worker Dr Michael Robie told board members at the meeting that politics should not play a role and he disagreed with not enforcing a smoking regulations.

“I think at a time when we are trying to promote health we have COVID which is going fast, which affects the lungs, the last thing we want to do is not have an impact on secondhand smoke and exposures of the workers at these facilities who really don’t have a choice, ”said Robie. “The majority of counties in West Virginia have a very high rating with the American Lung Association, unfortunately Putnam County has an” F “rating.”

Farley said they wanted to do the “will of the people”. WSAZ asked Farley how to strike a balance between the will of the people and the health security of the community:

“It’s difficult and I think you have to look at it from both angles, and also say that the people who have the power to make these decisions in a company are also responsible for their company and take care of it.” , did he declare.

“These types of decisions for the Clean Air Act unfortunately seem to be feeding off the politicization of COVID and other health issues,” Robie told WSAZ. “Whether it’s masks in schools or these kinds of issues continue to seem to be manifesting more and more left and right, so there is no common ground. Unfortunately, the health of our communities is sometimes put aside for different reasons. “

The latest version of the law will be posted on the Putnam County Health Department website by the end of the week, according to board members. They said the public can comment once it’s uploaded to the site.

The public will have 30 days to leave comments.

Robie said he will do his best to continue educating the board on the subject. He does not get a vote on the final decision.

The next council meeting will be on February 22, at which time the council could proceed to a final vote on the bylaw.

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