Hancock County eases smoking ban on Mountaineer, video cafes

NEW CUMBERLAND — The Hancock County Board of Health has amended the county’s Clean Air Regulation of 2014.

The vote to change amendment 2 was unanimous, with Dr. Anna Suray, Hancock County’s health officer, posing opposition.

The change means smoking will be permitted at casinos and gaming sections of local video lottery cafes.

The current smoking ban would continue to be prohibited in all restaurants, offices, bars, lobbies, hallways and child care areas.

Rance Everly, parent and health and physical education teacher at Oak Glen Middle School, stressed he wanted the board to strongly consider the decision.

“I promote health and wellness to my students, and with my wife working in the conditions that she does, she has to shower when she comes home from work before she even gets the chance to hold her 10-month-old child,” Everly said.

Earlier in the day, Hancock County commissioners approved appointing Anthony Palavis to the health board. This led to the voting equaling 3-0.

Both the health board chairman and vice chairman were not present. John Plesa acted as chairman.

“The motion I am wanting to make to change the policy is to get more tax revenue,” Plesa said, noting competition from other casinos within proximity to Mountaineer that do not have a smoking ban.

Officials with Mountaineer Casino have said the smoking ban there has hurt revenue.

Although the board amended the ban, it’s up to the individual establishments to implement when/if the smoking ban is lifted.

Jeff Davis, commission president, expressed his opinion on Palavis and what he believed the new health board member would be able to accomplish.

“Two things I liked about our interview with him, one of them, he said he would like to work collectively with the board of education, and discuss the opioid situation,” Davis said “When he talks to his children everyday and he asks them how school was, specifically he talked to them about how they have a health class; he understands the issues that they talk about in school dealing with health.”

Suray said she was concerned the policy change was created only to build up finances, specifically at Mountaineer, and the health of individuals was not considered.

Suray resigned her position on the spot as the meeting was drawing to a close, apparently motioning to Plesa.

“It’s been quite a decade and a half with (county health administrator) Jackie Huff, however, you and I aren’t going to be able to see eye to eye on things, so I think it’s best that I make my resignation, effective immediately,” Suray said.

arufener@reviewonline.com

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