CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State legislators ignored a request from a group of health advocacy organizations to postpone due to the inclement weather conditions a public hearing regarding smoking ban exemptions (HB-2208) slated for Tuesday morning at 8 a.m.
“At the same time the National Weather Service was suggesting people only travel if it is an emergency legislators moved ahead with plans to hold a public hearing on a bill which would dramatically change public health policy in West Virginia in the wake of the storm.” said Cinny Kittle, Director of The Coalition for a Tobacco Free West Virginia.
“Given that anyone wishing to speak out on this issue in the state would have to place themselves at risk in order to do so we can only speculate that the legislative leadership is not serious about getting public input on this bill.”
The organizations, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the Coalition for a Tobacco Free West Virginia and their partners sent messages out this afternoon urging grassroots opponents of the legislation to put their safety first by staying home tomorrow even if legislators were unconcerned with the hazardous situation they were placing citizens in.
HB-2208, would exempt any area designated for adults 21 years of age or older which has at least a 10% no smoking area and a ventilation system which provides for an air exchange of 3 times per hour. Exemptions under this bill would be approved or disapproved by the County Commissioners following verification from the local board of health that the conditions for exemption have been met. A public hearing was scheduled by the House Government Organization Committee for 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday.
If passed, the bill would result in:
– A Dramatic weakening of clean indoor air regulations in our communities which protect our citizens from exposure to second hand smoke as they work, live and while enjoying entertainment.
– Providing a path for an exemption to hundreds of facilities that are already smoke free and have been for a considerable time exposing its workers, patrons and vendors to environmental tobacco smoke.
“These exemptions are being sought by powerful special interests, most notably the gambling industry, who are attempting to to turn back the hands of time in order to squeeze profits through exploitation of a dangerous addiction.” said Deborah Brown, President and CEO, American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic, “and obviously there are some legislators who are willing to skirt the ability of citizens to have a say in this policy in order to please the special interests.”
“While our organizations strongly oppose this legislation we are not willing to place citizens at risk so the legislature can pretend to be listening to their constituents,” Brown added.
The groups plan on asking their citizen volunteers to phone and write legislators on Tuesday expressing not only their opposition to the proposed bill but also to criticize for the legislature’s failure to reschedule the public hearing in the wake of the year’s worst winter storm.
From an earlier release:
HB-2208 would exempt any area designated for adults 21 years of age or older which has at least a 10% no smoking area and a ventilation system which provides for an air exchange of 3 times per hour. Exemptions under this bill woulAs a large winter storm bears down across West Virginia several health organizations have requested legislative leaders to delay a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. on a bill aimed at dramatically weakening smoking restrictions in the state.d be approved or disapproved by the County Commissioners following verification from the local board of health that the conditions for exemption have been met.
“This legislation would roll back locally established restrictions which are already in place and protecting most of the citizens in West Virginia,” said Cinny Kittle, Director of The Coalition for a Tobacco Free West Virginia.
“To hold a public hearing on legislation with this much of an impact on communities throughout the state during a weather emergency risks the safety of citizens who wish to speak out on this bill.”
In a letter to legislative leaders The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the Coalition for a Tobacco Free West Virginia have requested the public hearing be delayed until later this week after the weather and roads clear so the “citizens of West Virginia can travel to Charleston safely to have their views heard.”