Cumberland Times-News

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August 12, 2013

Mineral health board approves smoking ban

KEYSER, W.Va. — The Mineral County Board of Health unanimously approved a strong no-smoking regulation Monday afternoon, setting off a few minutes of loud invectives from those who spoke in opposition, mostly officials, members or employees of private social clubs.

About 100 people filled the health agency’s meeting room, speaking for or against the measure for about 45 minutes. There were more speakers in opposition than in support of the regulation that takes effect Oct. 1.

Board Chairman Rodney Leatherman conducted the meeting, allowing the speakers two minutes apiece.

The regulation is far-reaching, prohibiting indoor smoking anywhere people gather or work. Mineral will be the 24th West Virginia county to approve a regulation, made possible when the state’s supreme court said counties have the right to do so.

The regulation can be read online at www.mineralcountyhealthdepartment.com.

“People come to our club for three reasons, to drink, smoke and play video lottery,” said Paul McIlwee of the Keyser VFW. As did other club officials, McIlwee pointed out that many organizations and even governments will lose donations when fewer people patronize because they can’t smoke. He said donations of $12,400 and $3,500 were most recently given to Mineral County and the city of Keyser, respectively.

“It was the government that got us hooked on cigarettes (in the military),” McIlwee said. “They put them in with our C-rations and told us to light up when we got a break.”

Representatives of American Legion and Moose clubs in the county echoed those remarks.

Butch Armentrout, speaking on behalf of the Ridgeley VFW, said the only way the club will be able to compete for gamblers with the non-smoking casino at Rocky Gap State Park is to allow smoking.

Chris Everett of the Cumberland Moose Lodge in Wiley Ford opposed the regulation, saying that many smokers from Maryland come there because they can’t smoke anywhere in their state of residence.

There was support for the regulation as well.

Otis Jenkins, using a portable oxygen unit, said, “Look what (smoking) has done to me. It seems this is about the almighty dollar. If New York City can pass no smoking without a problem, why can’t this little hick town do it for the health of everyone?”

Katie Salesky, prevention coordinator for Change the Future West Virginia, a health advocacy group, thanked the board members and supported the regulation. So did Nancy Thresher, a retired school nurse, and Sharon Haines who spoke of death and disease to her relatives from smoking.

Other support for the regulation came from those who look forward to having a meal or listening to a band at a bar without “coming home smelling like cigarette smoke.”

The only board member to speak was Gerri Mason. Among her comments in support of the regulation and referring to second-hand smoke was, “Nobody has the right to cause harm to someone else.”

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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