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April 6, 2008

Approaching smoke-free

Surrounding states pass smoking bans in various ways

FAIRMONT — Efforts to ban indoor, public smoking exist in all the states bordering West Virginia, but the approaches differ depending on rulings by the individual high courts as to what can be done to limit smokers from lighting up.

And activists in Kentucky, with the highest smoking rate in the nation at 28.6 percent, look to West Virginia, with the second-highest rate of 25.7 percent, for ideas.

“We’re really having success at the local level, really great,” said Amy Barkley, based in Louisville, Ky., and director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in the tobacco states and the mid-Atlantic. “West Virginia is kind of a pioneer in the region for local, smoke-free ordinances. That’s the model.”

Last week, Marion County became the 18th of West Virginia’s 55 counties to impose a complete ban on indoor, public smoking, joining Ohio, Pleasants, Wood, Ritchie, Tucker, Wirt, Jackson, Calhoun, Upshur, Randolph, Roane, Braxton, Pocahontas, Kanawha, Lincoln, Wyoming and Summers.

All 55 of West Virginia’s counties have some type of public smoking ban, including neighboring Harrison and Monongalia counties, both of which are considering more stringent ordinances.

“We’re OK with incremental progress,” Barkley said. “That’s what’s happening in West Virginia.”

As for bordering states, in the last year or so, both Ohio and Maryland have gone totally smoke-free in public. In Ohio, voters chose a complete ban — instead of a partial ban or none at all — by 58 percent during the 2006 gubernatorial election.

And Maryland’s General Assembly passed the Maryland Clean Indoor Act of 2007, which prohibits smoking in nearly all indoor workplaces “to preserve and improve the health, comfort and environment of the people of Maryland by limiting exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.”

While some might think a statewide ban would make life easier for someone like Barkley, she likes the regional approach.

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