Hancock County Smoking Ban One Step Closer to Reality - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Hancock County Smoking Ban One Step Closer to Reality

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NEW CUMBERLAND - The possibility of a smoking ban going into effect in one local county has been going on for several months now, but after a meeting on Tuesday, it looks like that ban could be arriving soon.

Despite the ongoing opposition against the ban in Hancock County, it's now one step closer to going into effect after the board accepted the current draft for the public comment period. It was the last item on the agenda, but possibly the most important item when it comes to the health of Hancock County residents, but also the county's revenue and its jobs.

The Board of Health began the meeting by letting some residents speak out on why they're against the ban. Joseph Billhimer, President of MTR Gaming, said, "There is no empirical evidence anywhere that states that smoking bans improve casino revenues or improves business revenues." Billhimer, who came to represent 1,300 employees at Mountaineer Casino, said he's very willing to work with them to leave some parts of the casino and hotel smoke-free.

Commissioner Jeff Davis asked the board to make an exemption for all of the ABC establishments in the county including cafes, fraternal organizations and Mountaineer. He said, "I have to look at it as my job. My responsibility is to see and oversee the finances of Hancock County. We cannot afford a $1 million hit."

Despite all of the opposition at the meeting, two spoke in favor of a smoking ban. Hancock County resident Luann Decker said, "It's so exciting to see that you guys are considering making this a better place for our citizens to live." Resident Walt Angelini continued, "Your unique position as the Hancock County Health Department is to follow your mission  to promote healthy thriving residents."

In the end, the Clean Air draft was accepted for the public comment period with a few changes made, including removing the line about golf courses and all outdoor properties including parking lots and sidewalks of healthcare facilities.

Residents have until August 11 to send their comments in to Jackie Huff. The public comment hearing will be on July 23 at 6 p.m. in New Cumberland.