Public Meeting Set for Clean Air Regulations
The Wetzel-Tyler Health Department board will vote on its Clean Air Regulation of 2016 at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, July 12. The special meeting will be held at New Martinsville’s city council chambers.
The proposed regulation prohibits smoking in several areas, including but not limited to, the following: means of public transit, public areas of aquariums, galleries, libraries and museums; child care and adult day care facilities; retail stores and tobacco businesses; all restaurants, bars, gaming facilities, and private clubs; rooms relating to place of meeting or public assembly; patient rooms, waiting rooms, and other public areas in health facilities; enclosed shopping malls; hotels and motels; lobbies, hallways and other common areas in apartment buildings and residential facilities; facilities used for exhibiting motion pictures, recitals, other performances; sports arenas and convention halls; polling places; auction houses; fire department facilities; emergency medical service facilities; and bingo operations.
Other outdoor public places will also prohibit smoking. These areas include: outdoor service lines; concourse areas of stadium and outdoor seating; outdoor serving areas of restaurants; outdoor property, including parking lots and sidewalks of healthcare facilities; public parks; playgrounds and golf courses; all areas of fairs and festivals, with expectation of Health Department approved outdoor designated smoking areas.
The proposed regulation also specifies designated outdoor smoking areas, which must occur 20 feet or more outside of any buildings or enclosed area of where smoking is prohibited. This designated area must include a fresh air intake intake area for heating, ventilation, air -conditioning (HVAC) system of any building.
Furthermore, the Wetzel Tyler Clean Air Regulation of 2016 notes that “No Smoking” signs must be posted in every building or other place where smoking is controlled by this regulation.
It is noted that willful violation of the Clean Air Regulation is “an unlawful act” and that “The Board of Health may, at its option, seek civil relief and/or file a misdemeanor under WV Code 16-2-15 against any person who willfully violates this Clean Air Regulation.”
Also, any person who “willfully obstructs any local health officer, public health nurse, sanitarian or any other person charged with the enforcement of any public health law… is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
It is noted that the Board of Health is within the bounds of authority to enact such regulations, based on a WV Supreme Court Decision from December 2, 2003.
Karen Cain, administrator at the Wetzel-Tyler Health Department, noted that there has been some unhappiness regarding the new regulations, which include e-cigarettes along with regular cigarettes. However, Cain noted, the interests of the public is at heart. Cain expressed concern for those subject to second, and third-hand smoke, the effects of which are now being explored more. She expressed concern for those who deliver supplies to private clubs and bars, fire marshals, as well as health department officials who inspect these areas.
Cain explained that West Virginia has the second highest death rate, in the nation, from lung cancer. She said 90 percent of these deaths are attributed to smoking, and every year secondhand smoke causes more than 3,000 of those lung cancer deaths.
According to literature provided by Cain, third-hand smoke refers to toxins from cigarette smoke that stick to soft surfaces. People can be exposed to the same toxins found in tobacco smoke through third-hand smoke. This specific type of smoke can stay on unwashed surfaces for days, weeks, and months. Low levels of toxins can build up to dangerous levels in the body, which can cause learning problems for children.
Cain explained that secondhand smoke is an “imminent health hazard” that can cause heart disease, low birth rates, chronic lung ailments, and other health problems. Breathing secondhand smoke damages one’s heart and blood circulation, which increases the risk of heart disease by 25-30 percent. Regular exposure can increase a woman’s chances of breast cancer and may increase a person’s risk of a stroke.
Cain explained that the counties’ clean air regulations were last updated in 2003. She noted that 44 other counties in the state already have the type of regulations that Wetzel and Tyler counties could have.
Rick Doty, Commander of Sistersville’s American Legion, explained that he and the Sistersville American Legion are totally against the measures proposed.
“We submitted a petition to the board, and I’m going to be at the meeting in New Martinsville on July 12,” Doty noted.
Doty said the Sistersville American Legion is a private club. Furthermore, Doty noted that his organization keeps in mind the interests of nonsmokers, whether it be by designated rooms or using a fan in the window to help ventilate areas that might be prone to smoke.
“In all politeness, if we had a guest and he or she said the smoking bothered him, we would put the cigarette out,” he said.
Doty noted that his organization’s environment in no way would encourage a person to start smoking. “An individual has to be at least 21 years or older to come in here. A person’s mind is already made up when they come in here, whether or not they want to start smoking.”
“We want to keep our freedom,” Doty said. “We are a veterans organization, and we want to keep our freedom and do what we want to do. We haven’t lost any members or anything like that for smoking,” he said.
Regardless of where individuals stand on the possible regulations, Cain encourages them to come to Tuesday’s meeting to ask questions and let their voices be heard. Those wishing to provide public comment must be signed in prior to the start of the meeting at 1 p.m.