The Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health surveyed Thursday the minefield it faces with a proposal to make all public places Kanawha County smoke-free, including bars. Putnam County approved a similar policy Tuesday, a move praised by the Kanawha health board. Several states, including Utah and Montana, took a similar approach as Kanawha County by enacting some sort of regulation, then phasing out smoking in bars and private clubs, explained Dr. Kerry Gateley, executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
Kanawha County’s existing rule prohibits smoking in all eateries that rely on food for more than 20 percent of their sales. Restaurant bars can allow smoking if the smoking section is closed off from the eating area.
But some places have run into “definitional problems,” Kerry told board members. In Maine, the regulation exempted private clubs, but becoming a private club was extremely easy, he said.
The board needs to make sure such loopholes do not creep into Kanawha County’s regulations, Gateley said.
“A lot of states seem to struggle with this private club thing,” he said. “The easier this thing is to understand and interpret, the better.”
The smoke-free regulation will take hold gradually so that the public and businesses can adjust, said Dr. Steven Artz, the board’s president.
“The community has plenty of notice,” he said. “If they have adequate notice, I’m sure there will be some grumbling, but we can move forward over time. There will be some structure.”
Part of the reason for the all out ban on smoking is to even the ground between businesses that can allow smoking and those that cannot, board members said.
“Fortunately, the contiguous county just moved,” Artz said, referring to the lack of competition.
Gateley credited the board’s move toward a smoke-free policy for partly inspiring Putnam’s new policy. “What I understand from the Putnam situation is they learned a lot from us,” he said. “We set the ground I think.”
In other business:
Flu shots for the upcoming flu season are ordered, but coming in slowly because of manufacturing delays, Gateley reported.
The county ordered 15,000 doses, plus 11,000 for smaller health departments that usually see delays. The first shipment comes in today, but is only 744 doses. The state provided another 1,080, he said.
A letter from one vaccine company, Sanofi Pasteur, said that 40 to 50 percent of the order should come in by the end of October with the rest to follow in November or December.
The health department made no serious changes to the flu vaccine schedule yet. That
schedule is available online at www.kchdwv.com.
“The only problem I foresee is if they’re late on a shipment,” Gateley said before the meeting. “We want to wait until we have the shots in the cooler. We expect to have enough, but we expected that two years ago, too.”
In 2004, a manufacturing problem caused widespread flu shot shortages.
The health department continues to design a new building that will fit its needs. The two highlighted at Thursday’s meeting are parking and a large storage cooler for vaccines.
“A facility where we provide a clinic without up-to-the-door parking or valet parking is impractical,” Artz said. “Clients need front door access.”
As per the vaccines, Gateley said: “Hundreds of thousands of dollars of vaccines pass through here all the time and we have to keep them cool. We don’t just use a Kenmore refrigerator to do that.”
Tougher smoking ban eyed