Indoor air study is background for smoking-ban discussion in Elliott; statewide ban sponsor is optimistic about a vote

As the debate over a statewide smoking ban persists, a study shows evidence of harmful air quality levels from second-hand smoke in places where smoking is allowed in Elliot and Lawrence counties. The researcher, the sponsor of a statewide smoking-ban bill and a skeptical legislative leader talked about the issue this month at a meeting of the Elliott County Chamber of Commerce.

The study, funded by the Kentucky Cancer Consortium, found indoor air pollution that slightly exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s national ambient air quality standard for outdoor air, reports Kenneth Hart of The Independent in Ashland. There is no EPA standard for indoor air,

The study also found that air pollution levels averaged higher in Elliott and Lawrence counties than in Georgetown and Lexington, where laws banning smoking in building have been implemented, Hart writes.

Carol Riker

The study was conducted by trained health department researchers in 11 public venues in the two counties, neither of which have laws prohibiting smoking, from July 2012 to January 2013, Carol Riker, a University of Kentucky nursing professor who reported on the study to the Elliott County chamber.

Smoking was observed in five of the 11 venues tested. Riker said one had a level that was more than double the national outdoor air standard. She said the study pointed to a need for anti-smoking ordinances in the two counties, especially to protect the health of workers in these smoke-filled environments, reports Hart.

According to the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy at UK, that 38 Kentucky communities have adopted any sort of smoke-free law, and 22 have passed comprehensive ordinances banning smoking in all workplaces and public places.

State Rep. Susan Westrom

The chamber also heard from state Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, longtime sponsor of a statewide smoking ban. “She was cautiously optimistic that 2014 will be the year the matter finally comes up for a vote in the General Assembly after twice failing to do so,” Hart reports. “Westrom said she believed a statewide law was needed to provide some consistency in anti-smoking regulations and because cities and counties have generally been slow to adopt such laws on their own.”

House Democratic Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, an Elliott County native, said such decisions should be made locally. “But Adkins — who told the chamber he spent many hours working in tobacco fields and barns as a younger man, but had never taken so much as a drag off a cigarette his entire life — said he was keeping an open mind on the idea a statewide smoke-free law and would consider changing his stance if his constituents indicated they were in favor of it,” Hart reports.

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