GRAFTON – The reaction from county residents, business owners, and visitors to the Taylor County Clean Indoor Air Regulation are greatly diverse.
Sheri Crisp commented, “Now we can take our families anywhere and not have to worry about unhealthy air! As an asthmatic, I really appreciate being able to breathe freely as I eat out or spend time. And as a parent, I am so glad that our children are not subjected to other people’s unhealthy habits.”
Terry Austin responded, “Where did the saying ‘the Land of the Free’ go? Now we are mandated to what we can do in private clubs and…businesses.”
Donald Brown concluded, “I know that the backlash from smokers, who think that this is an infringement on their rights, will be great, but I’m positive that in every one of these cases, these folks could cite a person or are people who work at, or otherwise frequent these places, that would benefit from a smoke free environment. Their rights are not being violated, only their sensibilities.”
The Taylor County Board of Health was compelled to implement the Taylor County Clean Indoor Air Regulation after reading that West Virginia had received a failing grade from the Centers for Disease Control. While the state, including Taylor County, had received a failing grade, some counties, like Harrison, had received an “A” for their smoking bans.
“No one wants to see Taylor County falling behind, and to read such a report was a startling reality,” commented one local care provider.
“It is vital that West Virginia has smart strategies for better protecting its citizens from tobacco’s dangers,” commented Deb Brown of the American Lung Association. Brown went on to say, “It will save countless lives.”
A failing rating, seeing the county fall behind as others excelled, and the encouragement received from higher health officials forced the local board of health to make its decision to implement the Taylor County Clean Indoor Air Regulation.
This ordinance requires all employers to maintain a copy of the regulation inside their facility, make the regulation known to all present and future employees, post the required signs on all entrances into the facility, and comply with all provisions of the regulations.
The Taylor County Board of Health advocates that the ordinance is intended “to protect the public health and welfare by prohibiting smoking in enclosed public places, prohibit smoking in places of employment, to recognize that where the need to breathe smoke-free air conflicts with the desire to smoke, the need to breathe smoke-free air shall have priority, to facilitate smoking cessation by active smokers, and to discourage non-smokers from taking up the habit and thereby developing a nicotine addiction.”
Sources conclude that both state and federal authorities have been pushing for local health agencies to adopt such regulations for a long time.
The United States Surgeon General and other authoritative public health authorities have determined that involuntary inhalation of tobacco smoke is a cause of numerous diseases in healthy non-smokers; is a major contributor to indoor air pollution; places children, unborn children of pregnant women, elderly people, and individuals with cardiovascular and/or respiratory disease at special risk; is a trigger for acute episodes of respiratory distress and myocardial infarction; increases the lifetime exposure to carcinogenic tobacco smoke of both smokers and non-smokers; burdens the health care system by increasing the number and frequency of required hospital admissions and emergency visits thereby increasing the public and private expenditures required for the treatment; reduces the life expectancy of persons consistently exposed to secondary smoke, and causes substantial losses in productivity through smoking related absences from work and school.
In addition, the following exert from the December 2, 2003 WV Supreme Court Decision enables local board of health to enact such regulations:
In attempting to minimize the effects of tobacco smoke on the general public in enclosed public places, the regulations of (boards of health) address a serious health issue which the Legislature has recognized. Based upon the foregoing observations, we find that clean indoor air regulations of local boards of health that place restrictions on smoking in enclosed public places are consistent with the findings of the Legislature ‘that smoking may cause lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and other serious health problems,’ advance the legislatively prescribed public policy ‘to provide the state with a citizenry free from the use of tobacco,’ and fall within the bounds of authority granted by the Legislature to such boards.
Records show that 21 of the 55 West Virginia counties have in place some form of smoking regulations. Both Monongalia and Harrison counties are among those surrounding Taylor with such regulations. Marion, Preston, and Barbour counties have yet to follow suite. Officials believe that the number of counties with such regulations will eventually encompass the entire state.
As far as Joyce Lee and her staff at the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department, Lee noted, “We are just following orders.” Lee expressed that she understands the pressure that her board is getting from higher regulatory agencies, but also understands how local business owners feel about and are responding to the regulations.
Lee and her staff hope that everyone will try and work with the new regulation, giving it time to see how it works for Taylor County.