Kanawha Smoking Ban Violations Down

Citations for violating Kanawha's smoking cigarettes ban have dropped significantly since the ban was extended to bars and gambling establishments three years ago.

Anita Ray, director of environmental services for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said inspectors found 11 violations in 3,149 Clean Indoor Air inspections in the last fiscal year, which ended July 1.

That's up slightly from the year before, when health department inspectors conducted 3,387 Clean Indoor Air inspections and wrote 13 violations.

Both figures are down sharply since the smoking cigarettes ban was expanded to include bars and gambling parlors in 2008.

Inspectors conducted 3,174 inspections that year and found 177 violations.

Ray said the health department sent nine cases to magistrate court in 2009.

The smoking cigarettes ban went into effect for restaurants and other businesses in 2004. Bars and gambling facilities were added to the ban in 2008.

"People were not happy. The people that wanted to smoke cigarettes continued to smoke," Ray said.

But public perception of the ban has since improved, she said.

"We've actually had people to call us up and thank us for it because they can go into the bars and not smell like cigarette smoke," Ray said.

"A sign of a good public policy is engagement of the public," said Dr. Rahul Gupta, health department executive director.

He said policies can be controversial and unpopular when introduced but will eventually become the norm.

Most violations now come from people smoking cigarettes within 15 feet of a business's entrance, Ray said.

"Those are usually corrected so they don't usually end up in court," she said.