BUCKHANNON - The Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau members recently discussed their views about having a smoke-free convention center - and idea that was proposed by Upshur County Health Department Medical Director Joseph Reed.
Reed recommended at a meeting Wednesday that the CVB vote to support the concept of a smoke-free National Guard Armory and Convention Center campus. The decision about whether the campus will be smoke-free, however, will ultimately be made by the Buckhannon National Guard, Reed said.
Reed addressed a letter to the National Guard suggesting that they designate the entire campus smoke-free, rather than just indoors. Reed said that government buildings already must follow an indoor smoking ban. He also said that Buckhannon has a clean air policy in effect for public parks and recreational areas which are now, by ordinance, designated as smoke-free. Extending that ban to the entire property is optional.
After discussing the matter, the CVB decided to draft a letter that suggests they will support the National Guard if it decides to make the entire property smoke-free. The letter also will include a suggestion to create a designated smoking area if the National Guard chooses not to enforce a smoke-free campus.
During the discussion, CVB member Kathleen Loughney said that she doesn't think it would be in the best interest of the new convention center to create an environment where hundreds of people who are using the facility to host an event are not allowed to smoke at all. Instead, she said that a designated area would be a good alternative. Regardless of the fact that smoking is unhealthy, it's a personal choice - not a criminal activity, Loughney added.
"I think there should be a nice, sheltered, contained area where smokers can go and have a nice breath of fresh air with their cigarette smoke," Loughney said. "I mean, you're talking about having weddings... I think it should be kept very nice, but I think there should be an area that is well-conceived outside. I just think there are too many people who are in this state who (smoke).
"To think that we're going to have hundreds of people at hospitable events, and we're going to tell them that they have to get in their car (to smoke)? I just don't think it's hospitable," she continued.
Mel Stemple said that out of hundreds of people who might show up to an event, 60 or so might be smokers.
Harmony Kopelov, a hospitality consultant who is native to Buckhannon, provided her input on the matter. She was a guest in attendance to offer her help with the start-up of the convention center at the new Army National Guard location in Buckhannon that is expected to open in the summer. She told members that designating the entire campus as smoke-free would not necessarily prevent smokers from lighting up.
"If you don't have receptacles designated for people to be putting out their cigarettes - and the facility has been rented - people are going to smoke if they want to smoke, especially if there is no one there to enforce that," Kopelov said. "Then you're just going to have a mess of trash all over the ground, whereas if you have receptacles in place, it's going to at least contain it a little better."
Reed said that he was told by West Virginia Wesleyan College Director of Admission John Waltz that some people who are considering attending Wesleyan are asking if the campus is smoke-free. He said that is influencing some of their
"I hear what you all are saying, but I also understand that there are some people who may want to come to these things that are wanting to come because it's (smoke) free," Reed said, adding that he thought the discussion was a good one. "It's not an easy decision."
Contact Melissa Toothman by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.