MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — It was standing room only at Tuesday afternoon’s Berkeley County Health Department meeting, when board members listened to comments from 17 citizens before unanimously approving moving forward a new indoor air quality regulation aimed at eliminating smoking in private clubs and fraternal organizations, as well as some public spaces such as parks and fairs.
Approximately 80 people were in the audience, listening as about a third of the speakers praised the proposal’s goal of protecting employees as well as the public from secondhand smoke, while the majority focused on its potential economic impact and the loss of individual freedoms.
Thanks to the board’s action, the proposal will be put out for a 30-day public comment period. During this time, a community meeting will be held sometime in mid-April so that more citizens can share their opinions with board members. Starting today, the proposal will also be available online at www.bchealthdept.org, said agency administrator Bill Kearns.
There will also be a link on the website, [email protected], so that comments can be emailed to health officials, Kearns said.
The next board meeting will be held May 20 and members may vote on the proposal at that time, he said following the meeting.
Board member Mary Jane Rinard made the motion, seconded by Teresa McCabe, to seek additional comments. Martinsburg Mayor George Karos, who also serves on the board, was unable to attend due to a conflict with a city meeting.
The proposed regulations are more restrictive than the existing policy that banned smoking in restaurants. Board members have been considering the new regulations since being received last month from citizens who helped organize the local group behind it, A Tobacco Awareness Coalition…