State Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington, left, announced her intent to file a bill today that calls for a statewide smoking ban, which would prohibit cigarette use in workplaces, restaurants, bars and private clubs.
The Courier-Journal‘s Laura Ungar reports the bill is supported by the Smoke Free Kentucky coalition. “We feel like the time has come to make sure everyone across the state is protected,” said Amy Barkley, a director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “There’s absolutely no reason for anyone to be exposed to secondhand smoke.”
Tobacco-Free Kids advocates released numbers from a poll Wednesday showing 59 percent of Kentucky voters support would support a comprehensive smoking ban, which prohibits cigarette use from the workplace, restaurants and bars. Of those, 44 percent strongly favor the law, a press release reads. The survey also found 76 percent of Kentucky voters believe exposure to secondhand smoke is harmful.
Dr. Terry Pechacek, associate director for science with the Centers for Disease Control’s Office on Smoking and Health, said that is definitely the case, saying there is “no safe level of exposure” to cigarette smoke. He supports any move that would ban the substance. “This is not anti-smoker,” he said. “This is protecting those people through no fault of their own who are being exposed to a deadly set of toxic compounds that come from the end of a cigarette.”
“If (smoking) was not a personal behavior, it would have been something that would have been addressed long ago,” he added, likening the harmful effects of smoke to “lead in gasoline.” “As soon as we recognized the lead was getting into the environment and harming children, it was rapidly removed.”
Statewide, 28 communities have passed smoking ban ordinances, 26 of which have already taken effect, Ungar reports. Lexington implemented its ban in 2004. In 2007, Louisville enacted a ban prohibiting smoking in public buildings. Nationwide, 29 states and Washington, D.C. have passed comprehensive smoking bans. Four other states have smoke-free laws that include restaurants but allow tobacco use in bars.
In Kentucky, CDC numbers show 25.6 percent of adults smoke. It ties with West Virginia for having the country’s highest percentage of adult smokers.
Dr. Ellen Hahn, who directs the Tobacco Policy Research Program and has been instrumental in getting smoking bans passed in Kentucky communities, said she does not believe the statewide ban will pass this year “because such proposals typically don’t,” she told Ungar. State Rep. Tom Burch of Louisville, who chairs the House Committee on Health and Welfare, said he plans to sign on as a sponsor of the legislation. He told Kentucky Health News the issue will be given a “favorable hearing” in his committee. (Read more)
For useful information, including maps, regarding smoking ban legislation nationwide, go here.