Statewide Smoking Ban Likely To Be Discussed



A statewide smoking ban will again come before lawmakers when they head back to Frankfort in January, but just how much support such a measure will have is unclear.

“There is no question that it would save the state money in terms of what it pays out for Medicaid,” said state Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green.

Most advocacy groups believe that such laws or individual ordinances reduce smoking overall and thus smoking-related illnesses – particularly those related to secondhand smoke – will decline.

“We certainly are a high-smoking state and that is based on our tobacco-growing tradition,” Richards said. “I could support a statewide smoking ban, depending on how it’s written, because I think it’s one of those laws that right now have a patchwork across the state and people don’t know from one community to the next whether they have one.”

Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, said it should be up to individual communities rather than the state to enact ordinances.

“But really I think it should be left to the businesses,” DeCesare said.

DeCesare said he doesn’t think the measure has any chance of passage. Richards said he’s not sure what the chances are.

Bowling Green enacted its own smoking ban earlier this year. Two organizations have been cited since its enactment on April 28, the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. The American Legion’s appeal of that citation is in district court. The VFW’s citation is still waiting for a code enforcement hearing.

“Most people that I talk with like the ban in restaurants,” Richards said. “And it is my understanding that the American Legion would prefer a statewide ban.”

The American Legion hosts charitable bingo games throughout the week and has contended that eliminating smoking would cut back on the number of players and the amount of money it takes in for charity.

Bingo facilities in other counties, including in Simpson County, don’t have smoking bans.

State Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, plans to introduce a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free law in all indoor workplaces, restaurants, bars and other public places in Kentucky.

Westrom previewed her legislation last week to the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare.

“It’s time Kentucky joined the growing number of states that have passed smoke-free workplace laws to protect the rights of all workers and the public to be free from exposure to secondhand smoke,” Amy Barkley, chair of the Smoke-Free Kentucky Campaign, said in a news release.

The coalition of organizations support making all public and workplaces 100 percent smoke-free.

“The momentum at the local level has created a growing demand for a statewide smoke-free law,” Barkley said. “We know from experience here in Kentucky and across the nation that smoke-free laws are good for health, good for business and essential to protecting citizens and workers from the proven hazards of secondhand smoke.”

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is among the organizations supporting a ban.

“Over the last couple of years, our members have stood firmly behind a statewide smoking law,” Dave Adkisson, president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, said in a news release from the coalition. “The attitude in Kentucky is changing toward smoking and the health effects can no longer be ignored. The business community now sees the effects of both smoking and secondhand smoke on our workforces in terms of absenteeism and lost productivity. We also see the effect on our insurance premiums and on our tax bills. Smoking is not only killing us, it is bankrupting us – both in terms of costs to business and cost of government.”