WHEELING - West Liberty University's campus will go smoke-free beginning next year, the Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health learned Tuesday.
The smoking ban includes electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products and takes effect in January, said Dr. William Mercer, health officer. He read from a letter sent by WLU officials informing the board of the change.
Mercer noted West Virginia Northern Community College also will be smoke-free when students return in the fall. The schools join the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg, W.Va. as the first three smoke-free college campuses in the state.
Photo by Joselyn King
Lawyer Cheryl Wonderly takes the oath as she is sworn in as a member of the Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health.
West Virginia University officials also are making plans to eliminate smoking on its properties, Mercer said, but smoking is already banned in the WVU Health Sciences building in Morgantown.
There are 720 college campuses in the country that are smoke-free, according to Mercer.
Health board members also discussed the effect natural gas fracking could have on local health concerns, especially a proposed operation near Wheeling Park High School.
Mercer termed fracking "a new science" and said the potential health effects on the community aren't yet completely known. He said he and the board have been researching to find the latest information.
The proposed fracking site near Wheeling Park High School is just 1,300 feet from the school - less than a quarter-mile. Mercer said current research indicates people residing in areas within a half-mile of fracking operations can suffer effects from air pollution emissions, especially those with asthma and breathing disorders.
Health Department Administrator Howard Gamble added the school would fall within a designated "danger" area in the event there would be an explosion or fire at the well site, and people would have to be evacuated. Under such circumstances, evacuation routes away from the school would be limited..
"If the Ohio County Board of Education wants us to get more involved, we will," Mercer said. "But hopefully, the issue will be resolved."