Health department reconsidering smoking ban exemptions

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The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department plans to take another look at the smoking ban. Right now, there are two exemptions, but officials say that could always change.

Smoking is permitted at the casino and other gambling parlors, but health leaders will soon take a close look at those exemptions.

You can still light up at the Wheeling Island Hotel, Casino, Racetrack and you can also still have a cigarette at the Ohio County Gambling Parlors and rooms where electronic machines are, often referred to as "smoke rooms."

That could soon change.

When it was finally approved last year it included two exemptions and so the board is going to go back and review to see if they need to remove the exemptions and make the county completely smoke free,” said Howard Gamble, administrator of the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department.

Gamble is talking about an extension of the smoke ban that went into effect in March 2016. That's when smoking became prohibited in hotels, motels, doorways and at outdoor public places throughout Ohio County. It also put a ban on electronic cigarettes in public places.

Last year, the board promised they would revisit the areas exempt, but some were opposed to making the casino and other gambling areas smoke-free because they said it would be bad for business.

On April 11, there will be another look at the county-wide clean air regulation.

“We take it into consideration, but that's not our main focus,” Gamble said. “The main focus is the public's health."

Gamble says the meetings are always public and nothing will be decided, but the board could consider making Ohio County completely smoke-free.

He says restaurants haven't seen any loss in business because of the smoke ban, but the number of eateries in Wheeling has actually grown.

“The thought was we need to create these rules because we need to protect the public's health, but we also thought it would make more enjoyable locations,” Gamble said. “Like restaurants, anyone can now go into a restaurant and not worry about second-hand smoke.”

The meeting to review the smoking ban will be April 11 at noon.

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