Clean Air Murray to Push for Smoking Ban

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MURRAY LEDGER AND TIMES | HAWKINS TEAGUE | AUGUST 14, 2013

With the Mayfield City Council passing a smoking ban last month, an anti-smoking group in Murray says it plans to continue advocating for a more comprehensive ban for the city.

Mayfield passed the ordinance in early July by a 5-4 vote, according to news reports. It bans smoking in public buildings, including restaurants, but does not ban smoking in buildings primarily used for sleeping such as hotels, hospices or nursing homes. Rooms designated for social functions that have separate smoke-proof enclosures with a heating and air conditioning system are also excluded from the ordinance, it was reported.

Dottie Kraemer, director of the Calloway County Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention (CC-ASAP), said the group Clean Air Murray — which is a subsidiary of CC-ASAP — wants the Murray City Council to pass a smoking ban that is more comprehensive in nature than Mayfield’s. She said that while the Mayfield ordinance is not a model the group would want Murray to follow, she is glad that the legislation has caused people to start talking again about the problem of second-hand smoke in public places.

“The Mayfield ordinance is not quite what we would like to see here,” Kraemer said. “There are many exemptions which leave too many employees still having to work in smoking environments. We would request our council consider a comprehensive ordinance that would keep all workers breathing clean air during their work day. The focus of our concern is the worker. No one should have to work in an environment that is unsafe to their health and working where there is smoking is proven to be extremely hazardous.”

In September 2010, Clean Air Murray (CAM) invited the University of Kentucky’s Dr. Ellen Hahn, who has done extensive research on smoke-free environments, to deliver a presentation to the city council. CAM was proposing an  ordinance, but several council members said they would prefer to see individual businesses decide whether or not to allow smoking instead of passing legislation making it mandatory. Kraemer said CAM is not currently planning to make a formal presentation to the council, but is instead talking with individual council members — some of whom were not on the council three years ago — about the issue and providing them with information and studies on secondhand smoke.

“We are not trying to be pushy,” Kraemer said. “We just want to provide them with facts.”

Kraemer added that if the city’s public safety committee asked them to give a presentation, CAM would invite Hahn back to Murray to discuss her research on the effects of smoking bans. Kraemer said that if Murray were to adopt a smoking ban, CAM would want it to be modeled on Lexington’s ordinance, especially since it was upheld by the Kentucky Supreme Court. She said Lexington and Louisville have the most comprehensive smoking bans in the state and that Bardstown’s is also very effective.

Kraemer said exempting businesses with an indoor ventilator is a problem because the machines are not an effective way to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke. She said UK has done extensive studies on air ventilators and has found that they still leave dangerous levels of cotinine, an alkaloid found in tobacco that is also a metabolite of nicotine, in the air. Kraemer said a non-smoking worker who works an eight-hour shift in a restaurant that allows smoking breathes the equivalent of smoking 1 1/2 packs of cigarettes. She said that restaurants that allow smoking open themselves to potential future lawsuits from employees.

Murray Mayor Bill Wells said passing an ordinance related to smoking is currently on the “back burner” for the City of Murray, with the first priority being plans for a new fire station and the construction of a public safety facility, as well as eventually relocating the police station and City Hall. He noted that when CAM last came to the council to propose a comprehensive smoking ban, the majority of council members had not been in favor of passing an ordinance.

“We have not approached them again with all the other ideas that are going on right now,” Wells said.

Kraemer added that CAM would also eventually like to see Murray State University take some kind of action to reduce involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke on campus, such as possibly limiting smoking to designated areas. She said most of the complaints she has heard about smoking on campus have to do with people smoking outside doorways, forcing others to walk through the smoke to enter a building.

Catherine Sivills, MSU’s vice president for communications, said new rules for on-campus smoking were not currently on the university’s radar, but  have been discussed before and could possibly come up again in the future. She said MSU would consider the possibilities of collaborating with the city if the city were to pass a smoking ordinance.

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