Amendment change allows smoking at casinos, cafes

NEW CUMBERLAND — The Hancock County Board of Health on Tuesday amended the county’s Clean Air Regulation of 2014, and its health officer resigned after citing concerns with the issue.

The vote to change the amendment was unanimous, with Dr. Anna Suray, the county’s health officer, posing opposition.

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

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 enforced 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.

The Hancock County commissioners on Tuesday approved appointing Anthony Palavis to the health board. The health board chairman and vice chairman were not present, and 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 have said the smoking ban there has hurt revenue.

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

Jeff Davis, commission president, said Palavis was a good choice.

“Two things I liked about our interview with him … 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 every day 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 resigned her position as the meeting was drawing to a close Tuesday, indicating that her differences with Plesa were behind her decision.

“It’s been quite a decade and a half with (county health administrator) Jackie Huff; however, (Plesa) 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.