WHEELING, W.Va. — Ohio County’s new outdoor smoking ban takes effect Tuesday – well ahead of the season for summer concerts and al fresco dining.
The Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health chose the March 1 implementation date to provide adequate time for operators of outdoor venues to comply with the requirements and to educate the public.
The board passed its first clean indoor air regulation in 1996, prohibiting smoking in all enclosed public places within Ohio County. The regulation was revised in 2005, then revised and expanded on Nov. 10, 2015.
Under the latest revision, smoking is banned in outdoor public places such as playgrounds, outdoor seating areas of restaurants and outdoor property of health care facilities.
In a significant change, the revised regulation prohibits smoking in enclosed facilities, outdoor venues, buildings and vehicles owned by governmental agencies in the county. Affected outdoor venues include Heritage Port, Oglebay, Wheeling Park and other municipal parks.
Smoking also is not permitted at a distance of 20 feet from any entrance, exit or exterior ventilation units of buildings used by the public.
In addition, the use of electronic smoking devices now is prohibited in areas where smoking is not allowed. Earlier versions of the clean air regulation did not address the electronic and vaporizing devices that are now more commonplace.
When the Board of Health enacted the revised regulation, it continued some limited exemptions. Smoking is still allowed on the gambling floor at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack and in other establishments’ free-standing limited video lottery rooms.
Howard Gamble, administrator of the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department, said smoking is permitted in private residences including apartments or housing units, except when used as a child care, adult day care, health care facility or residences that are registered with the state as personal or residential board facilities.
Last year, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials discussed the possibility of banning smoking in public housing, but no action has been taken on the proposal.
Gamble called the clean air regulation “an important public health milestone in the effort to protect and improve the health and well-being of Ohio County residents.”
Board of Health members who voted in favor of the revised regulation cited the dangers of secondhand smoke as a reason for smoking restrictions. Dr. John Holloway, board chairman, said the new rules “make the county a healthier place to live and work.”
In January, Holloway said, “If it wasn’t for the casino, I think it would be fair to say our county would be 100-percent smoke-free. My goal personally is for our county to be 100-percent smoke-free. We will re-examine the regulations at the end of the year.”
Gamble said the health department is sending a copy of the new regulation and door stickers to all businesses in Ohio County to inform them of the new regulation. The 2016 regulation also can be found on the health department’s website, under the Community Information and Business Information tabs.