Board of Health Expands Smoking Ban

A newly expanded regulation that bans smoking in outdoor public places is scheduled to be implemented April 1.

Marshall County Board of Health members on Friday unanimously approved the regulation, but not before amending one section.

They decided to change some language emphasizing that smoking was prohibited in outdoor venues and at fairs and festivals, but that owners or organizers could still ask the health department for permission to designate an area for smokers.

Before taking the vote, they heard from the public, including Haven Inn of Glen Dale owner Jim Weekley, who said he was in favor of expanding the regulation because it included a provision to ban smoking inside hotels and motels.

”It could actually prevent a structure fire,” Weekley said of the ban, noting he has a difficult time keeping up with the damage caused by smokers in his rooms.

He said after the meeting that he had not made all of his rooms smoke-free previously because he did not want smokers to stay at his competitors’ hotels. Currently, 16 of his 28 rooms are smoke-free.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Fager, representing Grand Vue Park, said the ban expansion could decrease the park’s revenue from its cabin rentals and that the park would have difficulty enforcing the measure.

County resident Ruth Cook said she was concerned the board would eventually want to ban smoking in private residences, something one board member assured her would not happen.

”I’ve had a lot of tragedies in my life. … I think smoking helps me,” said Cook, a 50-year smoker.

Representing Mound View Health Care, Heather Blake said she was in favor of the ban, noting her concern is tobacco contamination that can linger even after a cigarette is extinguished, noting some workers smoke outside and then handle patients inside.

Another woman, who said she was a local resident, also voiced her support for the measure.

Board member Don Mason said the objective of prohibiting smoking in outdoor public places is to protect children attending events and ballgames. The health department has received complaints from parents concerned about secondhand smoke during such events, prompting the board to take action, said Administrator Ronda Francis.

She noted that during the comment period, some people called her and said they wished the ban included bars and gambling parlors – two places where smoking still is allowed.

Other outdoor areas the ban impacts include playgrounds, swimming pools, outdoor dining areas and waiting lines and more. And unlike before, there will be penalties for breaking the regulation for those found guilty in court of doing so. The regulation will continue to allow smoking in private residences unless the residence is being used as a child care or adult care facility.

Board members include Mason, chairman; Janet Kendzierski, vice chairwoman; Robert Riggenbach; Carol Wade; and Shirley Byard.