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Some want greater expansion of Ohio County smoking ban

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WHEELING, W.Va. -- West Virginia has the second highest number of smokers in the country and ranks 44th when it comes to overall health.

Supporters of the smoking ban in Ohio County say an expansion could help the health of the Mountain State. The proposed ban could include outdoor patios at local eateries, fairs, festivals and e-cigarettes. It would not include casinos or gambling parlors this time around.

One local health professor says she thinks the expansion is needed, and it's a matter of health.

"We need to change the culture of our state to be one of health, vitality and growth," Kathleen Wack, a health professor at West Liberty University said. "And change that negative perception of West Virginia."

Wack told the board on Tuesday they need to remember their mission is public health.

"By having these policies in place that are relevant and aligned with other states in 2015, that's how we will have economic growth," Wack said. "And I think right now people stay away from some of these establishments. I know I do."

Experts say taxpayers pay more than $1,200 a year for smoking-related health issues, and it costs West Virginia $1 billion a year for the health ramifications of smoking.

Wack says she suffers from asthma, so she can't be around smoking at all and hopes other will realize the health issues it causes for themselves and others.

"I care about this issue because of my children, the perception of our state, and it's a huge disparity and something that needs changed and public policy will drive that change," Wack said.

The public now has about 30 days to voice their opinions about the proposed expansion. A public meeting will be held Oct. 29 at noon and the final decision could be made on Nov 10.

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