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Proposed changes to Ohio County smoking ban meet critics

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WHEELNG, W.Va. - There's some public outcry to possible changes to the smoking ban in Ohio County that could affect festivals and outdoor eateries in the friendly city.

Changes to the smoking ban could include public outdoor areas and private decks and porches where food is served. The proposal, however, would not affect casinos or gambling areas in the city of Wheeling.

On Thursday, many said they prefer an all-or-nothing ban.

At a public's comment session held by the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Board, festival leaders spoke out, saying there should be provisions made for events like the Brewfest and the Blues Festival.

Most of the attendees to the festivals are over the age of 21, and representatives say if you're going to single out one event or venue, you might as well ban smoking in all areas.

"If you want rid of tobacco, let's do it don't half-step, don't play silly games, don't jerry-rig what you believe an outcome would be," River City Music Festival Tony Domenick said. "Let's just go ahead and do it."

Places like Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack and other gambling establishments have been taken off the list of possible smoking bans.

Festival leaders say a smoking ban at Heritage Port could impact their events.

"We draw from 22 states and four countries and the idea that I could potentially lose 50 percent of that out-of-town market makes me wonder if that's the place to do the event or not," Blues Fest organizer Bruce Wheeler said.

Wheeler says a regulation with exceptions makes no sense to him -- making exceptions for certain businesses and not others.

Still others were concerned about where the ban stops and starts.

"If we protect people indoors, we should protect all people indoors," Wheeler said.

"What I also want to know is how far are we going with carcinogen control?" asked Jeff Hayes of Mountaineer Brewfest. "There are carcinogens in everything in barbeques, boats, OK, and where does it stop and in what way does it impact every festival down there in some way shape or form?"

Most festival organizers say that if the ban does include Heritage Port, then board members need to make another exception and allow a designated smoking area for their events as not to affect the economic impact or force them to move their festival from downtown Wheeling.

Nothing is set in stone as far as changes to the ban. Another public board meeting is set for November.

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