(01/04/2005)
Grantsville's Koffee Kup is leading the protest against a new ban that does not allow smoking in restaurants and other locations.

Darlene Rickard, operator of the eatery, said the ban will hurt her business. "It does away with the rights of private businesses and their customers, and declares them public," she said. Rickard is collecting names on a petition of people who oppose the ban.

Some Braxton County smokers continued to smoke in private businesses over the weekend, according to TV and newspaper accounts. The Braxton ban went into effect over the weekend. Smokers told reporters the ban violates the constitutional rights of private businesses and citizens.

Fines range between $200 and $1000, and can be issued against smokers and businesses.

One of Calhoun's Board of Health members, Bill Shock, said he is opposed to the extension of the smoking ban to private businesses. "I think private business operations should be between the owner and the customer. It should be a matter of choice."

Shock made a proposal at a December Board of Health meeting that the issue should be placed on a ballot and let the people decide. "It would then be constitutional," he said.

Board member Jennifer Cox responded by saying the cost would be too prohibitive, that "the Board of Health has been appointed to make those decisions," to protect children who are not able to vote.

Shock said he understands why government can control smoking in public buildings, but "private is now public."

Board member Cox said "We (health department) are charged with taking care of public health."

Maryetta Ables, a smoking activist from Braxton County, said the second-hand smoke issue is based on junk science.

A meeting for public comment is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. next Monday at the Arnoldsburg Community Building, A decision on the new regulations will likely be made by the health department in January.

Opponents and proponents are allowed two minutes to speak, provided they sign up prior to the meeting.

The non-smoking regulations are coming to Calhoun, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Wirt and Wood Counties, according to the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department.

The new regulation will mostly affect restaurants that have been allowed to have designated smoking areas. Also, the regulation calls for no smoking within 15 feet of the doorway of any commercial establishment or public building or near ventilators or systems that could pull smoke inside buildings.

The proposal exempts most bars and bingo parlors.


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