WV Hotel Smoking Ban Possible

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Lighting up in hotels may soon go up in smoke for six counties in West Virginia.

"If you're smoking in one room and exposing patrons in other parts of the hotel or motel, you know that's one place that we have to fix," says Dr. Richard Wittberg, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department. "The same thing really goes for those private function rooms that are in hotel and motel facilities."

The department's proposed hotel smoking ban comes on the heels of the surgeon general's report that there's no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

At the Blennerhasset Hotel, guests already breathe easy.

"We've been non-smoking for a couple of years now," says general manager Cecil Childress. "We really made the decision because we've had so many guests really seek and prefer non-smoking."

Balancing the needs of their guests, smoking and non-smoking is a challenge for those working in hospitality.

"Smokers do understand and certainly can go into non-smoking guest rooms and obey the rules, but you can't really do that the other way," Childress says.

Public health officials say it probably won't be too tough for hotels to pull off smoke-free, since many are already doing that. What guests do is another story.

"Go to other places where they've done this and if they find that you've been smoking in the hotel rooms they hit you with a pretty big fine," Wittberg says. "So it's something that they can enforce themself."

A Parkersburg teen who doesn't smoke weighs in on hotels going smoke-free.

"I do feel comfortable," says Tara Foster, 16. "There may be a lot of citizens that are upset and unhappy with it, their views -- but I think it's a good idea."

Knowing the harmful effects of smoking, a Florida guest considers all the options.

"I'm a non-smoker so I appreciate having a non-smoking room," says Mary Maxwell of Key West. "I guess I would be comfortable with the designation of some smoking rooms if they were on a particular wing because I know the smoke travels to other rooms and I don't appreciate it at all."

We approached many people in the Mid-Ohio Valley to get reaction from both smokers and non-smokers, even asking managers at the Blennerhasset if they knew anyone. All the folks we came across said they were non-smokers.

The health department is considering public comments and will decide on the changes in January. The Clean Indoor Air Regulation could take effect in spring 2014.

The department serves Calhoun, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Wirt and Wood counties.

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