An anti-tobacco organization will ask the Harrison County Board of Health to turn a voluntary clean indoor air policy into a regulation with penalties for violators.
In 1997 the board adopted a policy of 75 percent non-smoking and 25 percent smoking seating in restaurants. The Harrison County Medical Society Alliance and other groups, including the Harrison-Marion County Tobacco Prevention Coalition, want to see the policy become law.
"The problem we have is we can't enforce rules. It is on a voluntary basis," said Delia Naranjo, spokesperson for the Alliance. "I think it is time for the Board of Health to revise the policy to protect clients and employees from second-hand smoke."
The Board of Health meets today at 12:30 p.m. in the Harrison County Court House. Naranjo said supporters of indoor air regulations will present a petition to board members.
Naranjo would like to see the board enforce the 75/25 division of smoking and non-smoking sections, then go to 100 percent non-smoking within one year.
If a restaurant has a bar area, the group wants mandatory ventilation systems to prevent cigarette smoke from drifting into other areas, she said.
However, Naranjo said the group does not advocate a specific position about smoking in bars.
"The Board of Health would have to decide how to go about it with bars," she said.
According to the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health, 43 counties had adopted clean indoor air regulations as of March, including Doddridge, Taylor, Upshur, Gilmer and Randolph counties. The division of smoking and non-smoking areas in restaurants and penalties for violations differ among counties. Barbour and Lewis counties do not have clean indoor air regulations.
One area restaurant owner said Monday he believes regulations with penalties are not necessary because restaurant owners already designate most of their seating as non-smoking to respond to customers' desires.
"We already have about 75 percent non-smoking seating anyway. We have to give customers what they want and two-thirds of them don't smoke," said Sen. Joe Minard, D-Harrison, owner of Minard's Spaghetti Inn. "Education on the dangers of smoking will solve most of the problem. Most of the restaurants I know are restricting smoking themselves, without laws."
Staff Writer Shawn Gainer can be reached at 626-1442.