W. Va. Clean Indoor Air Regulations Based On Misunderstandings

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So-called Clean Indoor Air Regulations in many West Virginia counties are based on misinformation provided by anti-smoking organizations. Secondhand smoke is not the devil they make it out to be and depriving citizens of their rights is unconstitutional.

Following is an op-ed piece by Chris McCalla, legislative director of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, primarily about recent revisions to Clean Indoor Air Regulations by the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department:

The Clean Indoor Air Regulations issued by the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department in 1995 and revised in 2000, 2003 and 2008 are based on a total misunderstanding of the effects of secondhand smoke on non-smokers. So are similar regulations in effect in several other counties in West Virginia.

With all due respect to the KCHD and other health departments throughout the state which normally do great work in behalf of West Virginia citizens, they got it wrong when it comes to incidental secondhand smoke and the application of smoking restrictions in most public places. To make matters worse, they expand those restrictions every few years by unfairly depriving more and more business owners the right to run their businesses as they choose.

If you actually read the 2006 Surgeon General's Report, you will see that secondhand smoke cannot be considered a legitimate health or environmental hazard. The Report states no less than 108 times on its 707 pages that the evidence is inconclusive regarding the health aspects of secondhand smoke. That explains why OSHA - the Occupational Safety and Health Administration - doesn't regard secondhand smoke as an occupational or environmental hazard.

The KCHD seems to think that minorities - in this case, smokers - have no rights and that the majority - non-smokers - can have their way regardless of their impingement on the minority's rights. Our nation's founders opposed government's intervention into matters better left to the people. That includes private property - like businesses - where owners should have the right to decide whether or not to allow smoking on their premises. Customers and employees then have the right to patronize or work at those businesses.

For all these reasons and more, KCHD and other county health departments in West Virginia should rescind their so-called Clean Indoor Air Regulations. Failing that, they should rescind the recently implemented restrictions or be held accountable for their misusing the powers given to them by the West Virginia Code § 16-2-11 and so should the elected officials to whom they report.

Tony Tortorici
tony @ tortoricipr.com


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