West Virginia House of Delegates Assistant Majority Whip Adam Vance, R-Wyoming, recalled his father died Aug. 1 of lung cancer after being a lifelong smoker in a House floor speech against a bill that would have allowed indoor smoking facilities at certain resort areas. The bill failed in the Senate after the House approved it.
Legislation opponents noted would have increased worker exposure to secondhand smoke failed in the West Virginia Legislature’s 60-day regular session that ended at Saturday’s close.
House Bill 3341 stalled after the House of Delegates passed it Feb. 25 in a 57-33 vote, a much tighter tally than usual for contested legislation in the Republican-supermajority chamber. The bill never advanced past the Senate Government Organization Committee to which it was referred.
Opposed by the American Lung Association, HB 3341 would have allowed indoor smoking areas at certain resort areas and gaming facilities at existing historic resort hotels like The Greenbrier.
The American Lung Association responded to HB 3341’s House passage by urging state legislators to stop it, saying it threatened lung health. Aimee Van Cleave, the American Lung Association’s West Virginia advocacy director, predicted HB 3341 would increase West Virginians’ risk of preventable diseases and have “untold” tax burdens in medical costs to health systems.
“Exposing more workers to secondhand smoke is not just dangerous, it costs all of us,” Van Cleave said in a statement.
HB 3341 would have allowed what it called “cigar bars” — indoor areas designated for smoking not just cigars but other tobacco purchased on the premises or elsewhere.
The indoor smoking areas would have been permitted at “resort areas,” defined by the bill as areas with a permanent population of less than 2,000 people, containing overnight guestroom accommodation and excluding property used primarily for manufacturing, electricity generation or mineral extraction.
Under the bill, resort areas also would have included a licensed gaming facility at an existing historic resort hotel and a facility of an entity approved to operate racetrack video lottery machines.
The smoking areas would have had to be equipped with a ventilation system exhausted so air from the smoking area isn’t recirculated into an area accessible to the public unless the air is filtered.
That provision wasn’t enough for delegates who expressed fears in a House floor debate the bill could lead to adverse health impacts like those that affected them or their families.
Assistant Majority Whip Adam Vance, R-Wyoming, who recalled his father died Aug. 1 of lung cancer after being a lifelong smoker.
“I will not vote for this bill to give a reason for some kid or some teenager to think smoking is cool to go out and try to damage their health,” Vance said.
HB 3341’s lead sponsor was Assistant Majority Whip Jordan Maynor, R-Raleigh.
Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, chair of the West Virginia Democratic Party, was among the delegates who said the provision would jeopardize public and workplace health.
“[T]his bill is mainly for the benefit of old, rich white guys,” Pushkin said. “I’m more concerned about the people that are working for those rich white guys. They’re going to have to breathe in secondhand smoke for eight-hour shifts, 10-hour shifts.”
Speaking in support of HB 3341, Assistant Majority Whip Patrick Lucas, R-Cabell, a cigar store and lounge owner, predicted the “cigar bars” the bill would enable wouldn’t harbor cigarette smoking or vaping.
“If someone decides to open one at one of the resorts, it will be cigars and pipes and that’s it, trust me,” Lucas said.
In January, the American Lung Association gave West Virginia a “F” grade for tobacco control based in part on the state’s funding for tobacco control programs, finding a dearth of smoking restriction provisions and inadequate cessation services.
Last year, the American Lung Association found West Virginia had the second-highest lung cancer incident rate and the highest rate of adult smokers in the nation.
The report found the state ranked 42nd for lung cancer survival and 37th for screening.
Mike Tony covers energy and the environment. He can be reached at 304-348-1236 or email@example.com. Follow @Mike__Tony on Twitter.