Bullitt Board of Health Backs Smoking Ban in Response to Suit

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THE COURIER JOURNAL | BAILEY LOOSEMORE | FEBRUARY 22, 2014

A smoking ban approved by the Bullitt County Board of Health would not interfere with bans passed by local or state governments, the health board said in its response to a lawsuit pending in the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Bullitt Fiscal Court approved an ordinance earlier this month banning smoking in county-owned buildings. The ordinance includes a section that repeals all “administrative regulations” inconsistent with it, including the smoking ban passed by the Board of Health in 2011.

However, in its recent argument, the Board of Health says the state law that allows the county to create such an ordinance does not prevent the health board from implementing additional bans, such as its previously approved ban on smoking in public and workplaces.

The argument was entered Feb. 14 as part of a lawsuit filed by Bullitt Fiscal Court and the eight cities within the county.

Bluegrass Poll | Statewide smoking ban widely favored in Kentucky

The plaintiffs claim the health board does not have the power to implement a smoking ban, while health officials say state law gives them broad authority to regulate local health matters — including smoking.

The Board of Health approved its ban in 2011. The regulation led county officials to file a lawsuit that year with Bullitt County Circuit Court asking to overturn the board’s ruling.

Bullitt Circuit Judge Rodney Burress ruled the health board could not implement the ban. But the state Court of Appeals later overturned Burress’ ruling.

The county has already submitted its argument to the Supreme Court but filed a request to include the new ban — which prohibits smoking in county-owned buildings — in the court documents.

Jason Ams of Bingham Greenebaum Doll, who has represented the board in the lawsuit, said the Board of Health will respond to Fiscal Court’s request to include the new ordinance at a later time. But the board’s recently filed argument addresses KRS 61.165, which allows government entities to prohibit smoking in buildings they own or operate.

“KRS 61.165 merely permits named governmental entities to adopt a smoking policy for only their office buildings, workplaces or facilities, and does not preclude the (Board of Health) from prohibiting smoking elsewhere,” the argument states.

Health officials said they worry that if the court agrees that the county’s smoking ordinance repeals the health board’s ban, the lawsuit could be dropped, preventing health boards statewide from knowing which regulations they can and can’t make, said Carol Riker, a public health nurse with the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy.

Find the full article online, here.