It has long been established that smoking is unhealthy. That being said, the current mandate by the Mineral County Board of Health banning smoking in all bars will have a number of unforeseen consequences.
In the first place, this legislation is being imposed upon Mineral County residents by a group of appointed, rather than elected officials.
The situation would have been more palatable to the public if all three county commissioners had been able to offer input, rather than one of them who is also on the Board of Health.
For private clubs such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, this is tantamount to a slap in the face because the voters had no say in appointing the individuals who made this decision. The right to vote has always been and will always be of paramount importance to those brave men and women in uniform, and they use it, regardless of age.
Secondly, the aforementioned private clubs offer a unique venue to the area. Patrons are currently permitted to smoke while gaming on state-sanctioned video lottery machines, unlike casinos in nearby Maryland.
This brings in revenue to not only the state, but also the small towns where these clubs are located. This smoking mandate would place these clubs at a disadvantage, since people who come over from Maryland can just go to the new casino because the added convenience of being able to smoke while gaming will be gone.
This will ultimately be a detriment to the community. In Ridgeley, for instance, the VFW and Legion donate substantial sums of money to a number of different organizations and causes, many of which benefit children and members of the Armed Services.
By implementing this blanket ban on smoking indoors without an exemption to such private clubs, it is inevitable that money will not be available for such noble causes. Despite the insult to aesthetic sensibilities, smoking and gaming are correlated. Nearby counties that enacted similar smoking bans have seen this drop in money generated from garners.
Finally, the mandate was created to prevent children from being exposed to smoking. This is inherently flawed, because the above private clubs do not allow individuals under the age of 21 from entering.
Further, children will be more likely to see people smoking if they are standing en masse outside a building. When the school buses drop students off in the afternoon, a throng of adults smoking outside a bar or private club will be far more visible than individuals smoking inside those buildings.
This myopic attempt to curtail a personal choice is ultimately misguided. Children are impressionable, and they are prone to emulate adult behavior. Seeing adults smoking outside is not likely to help prevent children from starting this habit, which can ultimately develop into a debilitating addiction.
In conclusion, this attempt at legislation offends voters' sensibilities. It has the potential to affect a number of worthy causes such as providing transportation for Veterans to Martinsburg or providing Christmas presents to needy children.
Also, it will inadvertently expose more children to smokers than it would if an exemption for private clubs is provided. That being said, I hope the only individual who was elected as a county commissioner realizes this offensive form of legislating from the bench when it comes time for him to try to be re-elected.
Rodney D. Rowe