CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bar patrons in Putnam County should still be able to smoke, one county commissioner thinks, even though a national tobacco report gives the county a failing grade when it comes to protecting people from secondhand smoke.
"Everybody seems to be happy," said Commissioner Joe Haynes, who also serves on the county's health board.
In its "State of Tobacco Control" report last month, the American Lung Association gave Putnam County an F for its regulations.
In 2007, Putnam health board members banned smoking in bars and restaurants, but later decided their vote was invalid. When they voted again, board members voted 3-2 to reject the smoking ban, and revert to a 1996 ordinance that allows smoking in restaurants and bars.
Haynes voted in 2007 for the smoking ban, but said last week that the county's current smoking rules are fine with him.
"There are few discussions about it now at the health department and I don't see it being revisited," Haynes said. "When the vote was taken, I was one of the dissenting votes, but I will say, it seems to have worked."
Under the rules, business owners in Putnam County who allow smoking can't let anyone under the age of 18 inside.
Rosey Arbaugh, a longtime employee of Winfield's Riverside Café, a bar that sometimes offers live music and serves food, believes if smoking rules were changed, business would suffer.
"We don't allow smoking through the week until after 2 p.m. because of the lunch crowd," Arbaugh said. "We've never received any complaints and it's not like you're walking into nothing but smoke."
The café has a patio and a lottery room where smokers can go before evening hours and is in the process of purchasing a new smoke heater, which helps circulate the air, she said.
Haynes said that health officials from Kanawha and Cabell counties have contacted members of Putnam's health board several times and asked them to "get on board" and tighten smoking regulations.
"I'm sure [Kanawha and Cabell] get a lot of complaints like 'this is working [in Putnam] so why were you so adamant to ban it here?'" he said.