Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky CEO makes the case for a statewide law to ban smoking in most public places

Susan Zepeda

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which doesn’t lobby for or against particular legislation or endorse it, came close in a Feb. 11 “guest editorial” from its president and CEO, Susan Zepeda.

After recounting the damage that tobacco does to Kentucky’s health, and public support for laws and ordinances that ban smoking in most public places, Zepeda notes that the foundation “supports comprehensive smoke-free policies at the state, local and organizational level” and says it “is particularly concerned about policies that leave any Kentuckians unprotected.”

Since two-thirds of Kentuckians don’t live in localities that have smoke-free ordinances, that’s an implicit endorsement of a statewide ban on smoking in most public places, a proposal that is again up for debate in the General Assembly. Zepeda writes, “If you’re an elected official, listen to what your voters are saying again in the most recent Kentucky Health Issues Poll” taken for the foundation, which showed “two-thirds of Kentuckians of all political persuasions” favor a statewide law.

Zepeda concludes, “It is time for us to act to protect all Kentuckians from this wholly preventable cause of death, disease and disability. And we must do so without leaving anyone behind.”

In addition to elected officials, Zepeda also urges employers to “make your worksite smoke-free,” and diners to patronize only smoke- free establishments. If you plan events, hold them in smoke-free jurisdictions.”

Zepeda notes that “Tobacco is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in Kentucky and the U.S. No level of secondhand smoke is considered safe. This is painfully clear in Kentucky where we live with the consequences of the second highest smoking rate in the country, the highest rate of births to mothers who smoked during pregnancy, and the highest lung cancer and lung cancer death rates in the U.S.”

She adds, “Low-income Kentuckians bear a heavier burden of disease, as a group, and are likely to die younger than their better-off neighbors. Rural areas of Kentucky, where the smoking rates are often higher and exposures to second-hand smoke often more frequent, are hit particularly hard. . . . Incomplete policies that leave some Kentuckians unprotected tend to do the most harm to low-income communities, communities of color, low-wage workers (including young people), and those of us in communities with limited job opportunities.”

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky funds Kentucky Health News through a grant to the University of Kentucky‘s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which operates KHN as an independent news service.

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