PARKERSBURG - The Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department is studying revisions to the Clean Indoor Air regulations to eliminate smoking in hotels and motels in its six-county coverage region.
The revisions would further reduce where people can smoke, including eliminating smoking rooms in hotels and motels, Dick Wittberg, executive director of the heath department, said.
"We don't think it will be that hard of a pill for them to swallow, and I think most of them smell it coming anyway," Wittberg said.
The revisions also include banning smoking at private functions in meeting and conference rooms at hotels, motels and fraternal organizations and removing smoking exemptions for bingo halls and retail tobacco stores that do not have food permits. Wittberg said that affects only a small area of the department's six-county area.
"There are no bingo halls around and there are only two retail stores in our six-county area that don't have food service permits," he said.
The executive board of the health department will soon vote on the revisions to the exemptions in the Clean Indoor Air regulations, he said.
The board will meet next month to consider the revisions but is accepting public comments on the proposals. The proposed revisions will be on the health department's website at www.movhd.org and are available for public comment.
Wittberg said officials have received mixed reviews on the removal of smoking rooms. He said some representatives of hotels and motels worry if they no longer have smoking rooms, they will end up with smokers smoking in the non-smoking rooms.
"Some are grateful, and we have also had some that are not."
Several hotels are already non-smoking facilities. Others are phasing out smoking rooms.
Cecil Childress, general manager of the Blennerhassett Hotel, said the hotel made the decision about a year ago to become smoke-free.
"It was a byproduct of what we felt our guests were after," he said.
Childress initially was hesitant to ban smoking, but said the trend seems to be moving to non-smoking rooms.
Wittberg says operators can impose fees on guests who smoke in the non-smoking rooms. Childress said the Blennerhassett charges a "hefty fee" for guests who smoke in the non-smoking rooms.
Wittberg said the move to ban smoking at the private functions and meetings is based on health data.
"There is a lot of data that says you cannot keep the smoke in that room," he said.
With a shared ventilation system, smoke still spreads outside the designated areas.
"And there is no safe level," Wittberg said. "We feel it is the right thing to do."
The exemptions will be considered at the health department Board meeting on Jan. 22.
The removal exemptions for bingo halls and retail stores - if approved - would go into effect immediately.
The proposed removal of smoking from hotels, motels and fraternal halls would not go into effect until the spring of 2014.