MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — There’s change in the air in Berkeley County. Two months after the health department voted for the county to go smoke-free, it’s time to put their plan in action. Starting July 1, a comprehensive indoor smoking policy went into effect.
Diana Gaviria, a Health Officer with the Berkeley County Health Department, says they’ve had a clean indoor air act in place since 2001. However, it excluded bars, video lottery parlors and fraternal organizations.
“We know there were a significant number of workers in the county who were not being protected under the previous ordinance,” according to Gaviria.
The board noticed especially high rates of tobacco-related illnesses of those in the hospitality sector. That was enough to start a series of public hearings and discussions to consider stricter regulations. After months of debate, the board voted to enact the comprehensive policy.
“We’re really trying to take a pro-active and positive approach. We think that for most workplaces and businesses this is a very positive message. It’s good for your employees. It’s good for your clients and customers,” stressed Gaviria.
Berkeley County has gone one step farther than many others, addressing a new form of smoking.
“The regulation treats e-cigarettes the same as other tobacco products. The same as cigarettes,” explained Gavaria.
Another extra step the county took was to ban tobacco products from all medical campuses. That means people can not smoke anywhere, even outside, on the premises.
Gaviria said health officers will be doing compliance checks but, in the end, it’s up to business owners to butt out.
“To a great extent in the long run, this really depends on people self-enforcing. I think when businesses realize this is actually good for their business, we’re hoping to see self-enforcement.”
There is one narrow exception to the new clean indoor air act. The one place you can smoke in public is inside a tobacco retailer. That business cannot sell other products or offer other services.