Hancock County Commission Still Considering Smoking Ban

NEW CUMBERLAND — Three weeks after a proposed order was presented to Hancock County commissioners asking them to reconsider the county’s indoor smoking ban, officials heard from several others in favor of keeping the existing rule in place.

Commissioners also acted on a motion during a recent meeting to seek outside counsel in regard to the order presented Jan. 5 by former MTR Gaming Group CEO Ted Arneault to reconsider the smoking ban, which was enacted by the Hancock County Board of Health in 2015.

Assistant Hancock County Prosecutor Mike Lucas, noting his duties include representing both the commission and the health department, recused himself due to a potential conflict of interest.

The countywide act prohibits smoking from taking place inside all county buildings.

The discussion about Hancock County’s smoking ban comes on the heels of Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health members expressing concern earlier this month that the county’s exemptions allowing smoking in specified areas at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack and in limited video lottery rooms are being cited as models for other counties to ease smoking regulations.

Board members said they plan to revisit those exemptions at some point this year.

Also during the commissioners’ meeting, four residents addressed the commission in favor of the enacted smoking ban.

Eric Carper, a former member of the Brooke-Hancock Tobacco Prevention Coalition, who also previously ran for a seat on the county health board, said he believed that should the commission roll back the act, “it would send a message that the county commission was more concerned over money than it is over the lives and health of the citizens it serves.”

Carolyn Baker, an employee with the health department, said the department’s purpose is to ensure the health and safety of the county’s residents.

“Smoking is the No. 1 cause of cancer, so we feel it is our duty to inform and educate the public, and to enforce laws and rules that protect health and ensure safety. That’s our primary concern,” Baker said. “It’s not an economic issue, but a moral issue based on medical and scientific evidence and the health of citizens of Hancock County.”

Jackie Huff, administrator of the department, said some employees in businesses are nonsmokers and feel they should be able to work at a place where they don’t have to be subject to the smoke.

“We’ve heard all through this process for the last two years how it’s infringing on rights,” Huff said. “‘If a person doesn’t want to work at a place filled with (smoke), go find another job.’ Why tax you with that question? Where? Where else do these people have to go to work, and why should they have to, when it’s clearly preventable to have to do that with the current regulation?”

Donna Gialluco, also an employee of the board of health, said she handles phone calls along with sanitarians who visit the LVLs and cafes, and noted that while residents have not complained, some LVL parlors have reported other facilities that have allowed smoking to continue, and provided photos of the act taking place to the commission.

“We have had no phone calls from residents in and out of the state who say, ‘I can’t smoke in there anymore. I’m not coming in there,'” Gialluco said. “Our complaints are from LVL owners, telling on the other LVL owners who are allowing smoking to continue.”

Gialluco added that she, Huff and Baker investigate complaints, talk to the LVL parlor owners, document the information and sometimes present the information to the county prosecutor’s office.