Report calls for statewide smoking ban to protect Kentucky youth

A new “Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children” report says children and babies who live in communities without smoking bans are “subject to immense dangers from secondhand smoke,” and calls for the almost 69 percent of Kentucky communities that still don’t have such laws to implement them.

“The facts are pretty clear. Secondhand smoke causes problems for babies at birth, for children, and for teens,” Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director at Kentucky Youth Advocates, said in the news release. “In order to give all children the chance to grow up healthy, we need to take steps to protect them from secondhand smoke. Smoke-free policies are the most cost-effective way to do this.”

For the first time, this year the Kentucky House of Representatives passed a bill for a statewide workplace smoke-free law during the last legislative session, but it did not gain any traction in the Republican led-Senate, which maintained that this should be a local decision. New Gov. Matt Bevin agrees.

Graphics from Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children report

Kentucky has the second highest rate of adult smoking in the nation, 26.5 percent. The national average is 19 percent. And 87 counties (out of 120) in Kentucky don’t have any smoke-free workplace laws.

The U.S. surgeon general says, “There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke,” because “when individuals inhale cigarette smoke, either directly or secondhand, they are inhaling more than 7,000 chemicals; hundreds of these are hazardous, and at least 69 are known to cause cancer.”

The report presents four important ways smoke-free laws are proven to protect children and babies, including: fewer preterm births and fewer babies born with low birthweight; fewer asthma hospitalizations in children; reductions in the rate of maternal smoking; and increased protections for working teens, including exposure to residual toxins left on surfaces from tobacco smoke.

“We know smoke-free policies will improve the health of Kentucky newborns and children,” Brooks said in the release. “We need to protect all kids, not just those kids lucky enough to live in a smoke-free community. Kentucky babies can’t wait.”

Below are some details from the report:

Smoke-free policies cut preterm births, and thus low-birthweight babies

Kentucky, ranking 39th, is among the worst in the nation for low birthweight babies and exposure to secondhand smoke during pregnancy increases the likelihood of having a low birthweight baby (less than 5.5 pounds).

According to the report, low birthweight babies have an increased risk of of disabilities, cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss and are 25 times more likely than those born at normal weight to die within their first year of life.

Smoke-free policies protect children with asthma

“Studies have found significant declines in inpatient asthma hospitalization rates of children following the implementation of comprehensive smoke-free laws,” says the report. “For example, during the 32 months after Lexington’s smoke-free law was enacted, emergency department visits due to asthma declined by 18 percent for children.”

Exposure to secondhand smoke in children causes middle ear infections, respiratory illness and is a common trigger for asthma attacks, says the report. Kentucky ranks 41st in the nation for children with asthma problems and asthma is the third-leading cause of hospitalization for children in the state.

Smoke-free policies reduce smoking during pregnancy

More than one in five of Kentucky babies are born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy, the highest rate in the nation. Smoking during pregnancy is associated with problems such as miscarriage, still birth, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and  babies being born too soon, and cost the state “$5.6 million on neonatal services directly related to maternal smoking,” says the report.

Smoke-free policies protect teens in the workplace

The report adds that smoke-free policies will also protect the almost 77,000 Kentucky teens in the workplace, also noting that these laws will  protect them from toxins left on indoor surfaces by tobacco smoke, called third-hand smoke,which can result in “substantial nicotine exposure” and cause further harm.

Twenty-four states have strong statewide workplace smoke-free laws, according to the report.

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