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Public to weigh in on Hancock County smoking ban

Updated: Wednesday, July 23 2014, 04:46 PM EDT
HANCOCK COUNTY, W.Va. -- After several years kicking around the idea of a smoking ban, Hancock County's Clean Air Act is just a few steps away from becoming a reality.
But before it can happen, there will be a chance for the public to weigh in. That's happening Wednesday night.
The county's health department proposed a draft and voted to accept it on July 8.The goal is to have public venues in the county smoke free. It’s an effort that’s been several years in the making.
For Hancock County leaders, it’s about health.
"We received bad grades from the American Lung Association in the state of West Virginia,” said Jackie Huff, an administrator at the health department. “That's why it's been in discussion for years and we've decided that to protect the community that we live in."
But for officials at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort, a Clean Air Act banning smoking at public venues would be more about dollars and cents.
"Our argument has been that this ban is not just about smoking, non-smoking,” said Chris Kern, general manager of Mountaineer. “The Clean Air Act as it is written will cost us revenue -- jobs -- and will have a ripple effect, a far-reaching effect."
Despite those monetary concerns, officials like Huff, say they aren't necessarily considering an exemption for the county's No. 1 employer.
"Exemptions would kind of say one person's health doesn't mean as much as the next person's,” Huff said. “So how do you do that with an exemption?"
Kern says he understands the health concerns, but he is still confident that the health department will see the financial side of things and will come to a compromise.
"We offered 80 percent of hotel rooms to be non-smoking, 10 percent of casino floor, restaurants, trackside facility with exception of one bar,” Kern said. “So we are still waiting on the board on those ideas. Compromise and the ball is in their court."
The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the New Cumberland City Building. And it is open to the public. If you can't make it you have until Aug. 11 to write it in.

Public to weigh in on Hancock County smoking ban

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