Track Sends Busloads to Speak Against Hancock Smoking Ban

NEW CUMBERLAND – The Hancock County Health Board faced a barrage of comments Wednesday at a public hearing regarding the Hancock County Clean Air Regulation, which would effectively ban smoking in most public places in the county.

Busloads of Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort employees filed into the New Cumberland Municipal Building wearing T-shirts that read “SAVE MY JOB” in capital red letters. They came to voice their opposition to the ban, which could potentially cost jobs at the casino as well as local gaming revenue.

The draft proposal would ban smoking in all Hancock County restaurants, bars, gaming facilities, private clubs, hotels, motels, restaurants, bingo operations, fire department facilities, retail stores, tobacco businesses, concert venues, sports arenas, bowling lanes and other enclosed public places.

It also would ban smoking in public parks, including pavilions, playgrounds, golf courses, fairs, festivals, outdoor service lines, outdoor serving areas of restaurants and other outdoor public places. All places of employment would be covered by the regulation.

If the policy is adopted, Hancock County would join 28 other West Virginia counties that have banned smoking in public places and places of employment, according to the American Lung Association.

“I’ve heard from the board that this is health issue, not an economic issue. The two cannot be separated from a practical standpoint. The employees who lose their jobs lose insurance. Not only should the board consider the economic impact, I propose that it is your obligation to consider the economic impact of the proposed regulation as it is written,” said Vince Azzarello, senior director of human resources at Mountaineer.

Supporters of the ban who spoke included Walter Angelini, a Weirton lawyer.

“I am hearing very little tonight about the health issue. And it is this board’s job to promote health. Based on comments tonight it seems like the health problems are just an acceptable risk, the risk of doing business. I don’t agree with that. I’m sorry that the rest of the majority doesn’t feel the same. But you are here as a health board, and not as economists or a chamber of commerce. I urge you to stay the course and consider the health of the citizens and leave the economics to the other branch,” Angelini said.