Smoke Free West Virginia: Is It Coming Soon?


A senate bill in West Virginia called for Smoke Free West Virginia Act that prohibits smoking in most indoor public places. West Virginia is one of 11 states without any statewide smoking ban.

Cartoon by Gary Markstein

Harmful effects of secondhand smoke are well supported with firm evidence. Major health outcomes of secondhand smoke are lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and acute respiratory effect. Another fact that urges efforts to keep indoor air clean is that there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure.

Some opponents of the Act claim that the Act would pull down revenues of restaurants and bars. On the contrary, some studies have shown that smoking bans did not have a negative effect on bars and restaurants or liquor revenues in Minnesota cities and in a county in Nevada.

People are informed of the negative effects of smoking and can be suggested by others of smoking cessation, but it falls into individual’s choice whether to smoke or not. However, individual freedom should be confined to the range of not influencing harmful effects on others. Cigarette smoking, as mentioned above, imposes adverse health effects on non-smokers. Another study concluded that the effects of secondhand smoke are 80% to 90% as large as those from active smoking. It is obvious that public health is threatened against their will by others’ behaviors in the absence of governmental regulation.

From the viewpoint of the working staff in workplaces like restaurants and bars, such places are the means to make their living. No one would want to work in the environment where their rights to be healthy are intruded by someone else when it could be prevented.

Communities in West Virginia have been working together to promote smoke-free environment. Smoke Free West Virginia Act should be passed to protect public health and further recover the rights of non-smoking people.


3 Responses to “Smoke Free West Virginia: Is It Coming Soon?”

  1. sidharthadeka Says:

    Freedom from secondhand smoke (SHS) should be a fundamental human right. Certainly, policies that reinforce bans in indoor public places are a great start. Such bans have eradicated cultural mores associated with the enjoyment of smoking including sheesha bars in the UK and also smoking in pubs in the UK and Ireland. Certainly, fundamental human right to a healthy life trumps longstanding cultural mores.

    Now, as bans in the public domain has been addressed, how will public health planners and policymakers curb smoking in public domain, specifically SHS in the household and in ritual spaces? Culturally appropriate and cogent solutions are needed for this problem in both industrialized and resource-limited settings.

  2. mamahach Says:

    Its actually surprising that 11 states remain without a smoking ban! While policy changes that seemingly infringe on individual freedoms are at times hard to swallow, when those behaviors and choices negatively impact others (in this case, with scientifically proven fatal effects), legislators must take a stand to protect their people. Perhaps simplifying the issue, but if its comes down to comparing lost revenues to lost/compromised lives, come on West Virgina. What about the economic impact of DALY’s lost?

  3. kaallen428 Says:

    As mamahach stated, I was also surprised that 11 states still do not have a smoking ban! That translates into roughly 22% of US states do not have such laws. Considering that West Virginia is a relatively poor state with a large population of miners, which I consider a vulnerable population, it seems especially problematic that this population phases a double burden of lung problems (smoking and particulates in mines). Has anyone approached this issue of smoking from the perspective of a vulnerable population?

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