County prepares to implement smoking ban
Published: Monday, March 5, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 07:03
Members of the Morgantown City Council met with local law enforcement Monday to clarify measures for the Monongalia County Clean Indoor Air Regulation, which will prohibit smoking in enclosed public spaces starting Friday.
"The city and the county will be able to achieve a unified environment in regard to this ordinance," said City Manager Terrence Moore.
The county-wide ordinance will prohibit smoking in all means of public transit, retail stores, tobacco businesses, restaurants, private clubs, video lottery parlors, bars, public assembly areas, all portions of public health facilities and enclosed shopping malls.
Moore said interest has been shown in permits to expand decks and other outdoor spaces to accommodate for businesses' smoking demographic.
The city and county are working together to collaborate permits for local businesses and will consider requests for a 60-day extension in compliance, he said.
Nineteen counties in West Virginia are currently smoke-free, while all but six counties implement smoking regulation for restaurants and non-hospitality workplaces, according to Christina Mickey of the Smoke Free Initiative of West Virginia.
"This is a public health law, regardless of what may have occurred in the past," Mickey said. "It saves lives."
Mickey projected the outcome of the ban by comparing it to Kanawha County's current plan, which has seen a 95 percent compliance rate since it became effective in 2008.
Morgantown Police and the Monongalia County Sheriff's Department clarified reporting procedures.
If a violation is spotted by a patron or is later reported and has not escalated to a "trespassing" situation, the complaint will be sent to the Monongalia County Health Department Environmental Health Program. A sanitarian will then make a thorough visit to the location for an inspection.
When a violation is noted by a business owner who has attempted to inform a patron, cut off the patron's service and told the patron to leave, the owner will treat it as they would a "No shirt, no shoes, no service" policy and report it to the non-emergency MECCA line.
The issue will then fall under a "trespassing" or "breech of peace" category, and MECCA will direct the complaint to the proper agency.
Those calls will be categorized as non-emergency, and authorities are expected to respond when a unit is available.
City Attorney Steve Fanok said he believes effective implementation will come easy.
"We've had a (municipal) smoking ordinance since 1994," he said. "It's not like we're just jumping into the water."
More than half of the bars and late-night venues in the county are located outside city limits and will probably see more inquiries and missed inspection points early on, according to Mickey.
The Monongalia County Health Department has acquired $8,000 in grant money that will help get those inspections and compliance checks started off on the right foot.
For more information on the smoking ban, visit www.monchd.org.