Hancock County Health Board Snuffs Out Casino Smoking Ban

NEW CUMBERLAND — The Hancock County Board of Health has amended the county’s Clean Air Regulation of 2014, which will allow smoking at casinos and gaming sections of local video lottery parlors.

The vote to change the amendment was unanimous. Dr. Anna Suray, Hancock County’s health officer, resigned immediately in opposition.

Smoking would continue to be prohibited in all restaurants, offices, bars, lobbies, hallways and child care areas.

Earlier in the day, Hancock County commissioners approved appointing Anthony Palavis to the health board. That allowed the five-member board to have a quorum, which allowed them to vote. With two members absent, the vote was 3-0.

Both the health board chairman and vice chairman were not present. John Plesa acted as chairman.

“The motion I am wanting to make to change the policy is to get more tax revenue,” Plesa said, noting competition from other casinos within proximity to Mountaineer that do not have a smoking ban.

Officials with Mountaineer Casino have said the smoking ban there has hurt revenue.

Although the board amended the ban, it’s up to the individual establishments to implement when/if the smoking ban is lifted.

Jeff Davis, commission president, expressed his opinion on Palavis and what he believed the new health board member would be able to accomplish.

“Two things I liked about our interview with him, one of them, he said he would like to work collectively with the board of education, and discuss the opioid situation,” Davis said.

“When he talks to his children everyday and he asks them how school was, specifically he talked to them about how they have a health class; he understands the issues that they talk about in school dealing with health.”

Suray said she was concerned the change was a financial decision, and that the health of individuals was not considered. She resigned on the spot as the meeting was drawing to a close, apparently motioning to Plesa.

“It’s been quite a decade and a half with (county health administrator) Jackie Huff, however, you and I aren’t going to be able to see eye-to-eye on things, so I think it’s best that I make my resignation, effective immediately,” Suray said.

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