As of Oct. 1, Mineral County will be the 24th West Virginia county to prohibit indoor smoking anywhere people gather or work.
The decision, made Monday by the county’s board of health, has drawn considerable opposition — a result that surprised nobody.
Proponents of the move cite public health issues. Opponents talk about individual freedoms and, in the case of service and fraternal organizations, say the move will cost them money they need to remain in business.
The clubs affected derive revenue from video gambling. Some of their officials told the health board that much of their business comes from Marylanders who cross the Potomac River because they aren’t allowed to smoke in Maryland businesses like the casino at Rocky Gap State Park.
One said, “People come to our club for three reasons: to drink, smoke and video lottery.” Others said they expect to lose thousands of dollars in donations as they lose customers.
Those who favor the ban were equally adamant. A man who uses a portable oxygen unit told the health board, “Look what smoking has done to me.” Others were looking forward to patronizing an establishment and being able to come home without “smelling like cigarette smoke.”
A similar furor erupted when Maryland banned smoking in public places.
Smoking is still legal in America, although the restrictions upon it are growing.
People who want to light up are still free to do so in their homes and other private places. People who want nothing to do with smoking because of concern for their own health are increasingly being protected from it in public places.
The ideal situation would be for Americans to become totally smoke-free as a matter of choice, but we don’t look for that to happen any time soon.