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News Summary

Bill could put smoking ban in jeopardy

Publication Date: 2/17/2010
  • Author:BRYAN CHAMBERS
  • Publication:The Herald-Dispatch

The expansion of Cabell County's smoking ban into bars and video lottery parlors has prompted a Cabell delegate to craft legislation that would allow the public to appeal local health regulations to county commissions.

Delegate Doug Reynolds, D-Cabell, said many of his constituents have voiced frustration over the Cabell-Huntington Board of Health's decision in January to extend the countywide smoking ban, which already applies to restaurants and workplaces. The new regulation takes effect March 1....

Local health officials and another delegate, however, fear the broad provisions in Reynolds' bill (HB 4507) could wreak havoc with a wide range of health laws.

According to the bill, any adverse decision or action taken by a local board of health or a local health officer against a person or business could be appealed to the respective county commission. The bill includes a 36-month retroactive period, meaning any action taken by local health boards up to three years before the effective date of the bill can be appealed....

Dr. Harry Tweel, director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, said the bill "guts health law."

"Such a regulation completely bypasses Code 16 of West Virginia Code, which would then stop all the health regulations and health laws passed in the last 100 years," Tweel said.

Older laws are continuously being changed, which would make them subject to the new code even if they originated well before the past 36 months, he said.

Tweel said the place to address smoking regulations is the West Virginia Supreme Court, but that court ruled in 2003 that the Legislature is the proper place for smoking policies to be made. Because legislators haven't addressed smoking regulations, it's up to the health boards, Tweel said.