Mercer: Need To Expand Smoking Ban

WHEELING – Dr. William Mercer wants Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health members to start thinking about trying again to expand the county’s smoking ban – an endeavor that came to a halt in 2011 after resistance from the public.

During a health board meeting Tuesday, Mercer, who serves as the county’s health officer, said Hancock County’s health board is expected to discuss instituting a smoking ban. Pennsylvania also may be looking to strengthen its ban.

The board in 2011 decided to indefinitely table its proposed plan to expand the countywide Clean Indoor Air regulation, which would have done away with exemptions for Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, video gambling parlors and video gambling areas inside bars. It also would have prohibited smoking 20 feet outside doorways of buildings, on government-owned property, at parks and in ticket lines.

The matter was tabled after the board received comments from the public, some of whom disagreed with the expansion.

“Hancock County is thinking about improving their regulation. … I’ve even heard Pennsylvania is trying to strengthen their regulation which would be to eliminate gaming from the exemption,” Mercer said. “I just want you to start thinking about it. If Pennsylvania went completely no exemptions that would be huge. Hancock County – can they do it? I know that’s what part of the regulation would state – no exemptions.”

In response to a question from board member Wilkes Kinney, Mercer said the entire state of Ohio has a ban on smoking in public and it does not exempt its casinos.

Linda Holmstrand, American Lung Association regional tobacco prevention coordinator, said the Hancock County Board of Health is scheduled to meet at 12:30 p.m. April 1 and discuss its proposed regulation.

“It does not have any exemptions at this point, but we’ll see where the discussion goes,” Holmstrand said.

After the meeting, Mercer said he did not know how much resistance the board would receive from the public regarding expanding the smoking ban.

“From a public health standpoint, we still have people not protected from secondhand smoke,” Mercer said.