Ban Smoking At the Casino

Editor, News-Register:

It should be obvious now to anyone that the Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health has been carefully crafted to favor the almighty dollar over public health. The fact they will not even discuss, let alone vote, on making the casino smoke-free, means there must be a litmus test now for being placed on the board. At any rate, it puts Wheeling out of step with most of West Virginia and the nation on the topic of indoor, public smoking.

I can understand the casino bosses pushing for tobacco. Their job is to maximize profits for Delaware North Corporation, which owns the venue. But a health board? Are you kidding me?

I have a dog in the fight. I make my living calling races at what is still called The Downs. It is a unique skill that few employers offering a clean air environment would be interested in. Each day I breathe in enough second-hand cigar and cigarette smoke to choke a horse. Never good for anyone who makes his living with his voice and for someone who tries to take care of himself, it’s beyond annoying.

You see, I’ve been there before. My early years in television meant coping with a smoke-filled newsroom. Relief finally came when the company abruptly put an end to the practice. That was 1987! Astonishingly, I still struggle with it 30 years later, thanks to a lack of vision by the Board of Health.

To continue down memory lane, I covered many stories in the early 1990s when they began a push to ban smoking in restaurants. Some eatery owners were on the verge of hysteria, predicting half the restaurants in the valley would shutter their doors. We know that didn’t happen.

The truth is — people adapt. If they want to gamble, or enjoy our shows and restaurants, they will come. The casino will stay open. The sky will not fall. Our employees will get the fresh air environment they deserve.

Sadly, such a change is not even on the horizon. If it ever does come it will be too late for me. The board may not want to talk or vote on the question, but they need to know that inaction takes a toll on the quality of life of real people.

Doctors Mercer and Holloway have done an admirable job. Unless we can get more physicians on the health board, this perpetual exemption for a specific industry will outlast even their tenure.

Or perhaps I can sit in the front row of future board meetings and light up a big old stogie. See how they like it.

Jerry Echemann

Martins Ferry