Poll: NKY Voters Want State Smoking Restrictions

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THE ENQUIRER | TERRY DeMIO | DECEMBER 20, 2014

Northern Kentucky health advocates plan to hit up state lawmakers early next year with new evidence suggesting residents in the region want restricted smoking.

Results of a public opinion poll show that Northern Kentucky voters want a smoke-free law.

The Northern Kentucky Health Department released the survey this week that shows, among other results, that:

65 percent of those responding favored a smoke-free law.

73 percent prefer to dine at restaurants that don’t allow smoking.

70 percent say smoking shouldn’t be allowed at workplaces.

The responses are unsurprising to public health advocates including members of Tobacco-Free Northern Kentucky, who say they provide evidence that residents are ready for a state law.

“The general opinion of most people is that they would prefer legislation for smoke-free environments,” said Bonnie Hedrick, NKY Prevention Alliance coordinator. “The results (of the survey) overwhelmingly reflect that.”

The Kentucky Legislature will once again be asked to consider a state law to restrict smoking. A bill introduced by State Rep. Susan Westrom, a Fayette County Democrat, will be back before lawmakers next year. It would make public places such as restaurants, bars, motels and offices smoke-free.

The new survey isn’t the first one in which Kentucky residents indicated support for state intervention with smoking.

But opponents of government regulation of smoking say such results are irrelevant.

Ken Moellman, spokesman for NKYChoice, a group of small-business owners and others, believes that property owners, not government leaders, should decide what happens on their property.

Moellman says Northern Kentucky residents have all kinds of smoke-free establishments in which to work, eat or be entertained.

The Health Department and other supporters of smoke-free legislation say they will show the latest data to Northern Kentucky legislators to try to sway the state lawmakers into passing a comprehensive smoke-free law this year.

Hedrick said members of Tobacco-Free NKY will visit individually with legislators in Northern Kentucky in January, then continue their quest during the upcoming legislative session.

The Northern Kentucky Health Department sees the survey results as positive for its interest in protecting the public from secondhand smoke with a statewide law.

“This is very helpful data for us and our community partners to use to educate the policymakers about what’s going on in Northern Kentucky,” said Dr. Lynne Saddler, district director of health for the NKY Health Department.

Moellman, who flatly opposes laws regulating smoking, said consumer demand is already affecting smoking policies of bars, restaurants and other venues in Northern Kentucky.

“Consumers pay a huge role in all of this,” Moellman said. “It’s a matter of businesses reacting to consumers. Smoking policies are working themselves out: Businesses are going smoke-free themselves.”

John Fox Marketing Consulting of Cincinnati conducted the public opinion poll on behalf of the Tobacco-Free Northern Kentucky collaborative, with support from the health department, in July and August. It was funded through a grant from Interact for Health.

The consultant contacted by phone 800 registered voters from Northern Kentucky: 200 from each of Boone, Campbell, Kenton and Grant counties, which the health district covers.

The Northern Kentucky advocates for smoke-free legislation say they’ll also use findings from air quality tests showing harmful particulate matter in places that permit smoking and results of a worksites study.

The health department in August and September surveyed 35 manufacturing work places identified by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. They found that 88 percent of the employers do not permit cigarette smoking inside their workplace and 62 percent favor a state law that would prohibit smoking in most public places, including workplaces, public buildings, offices, restaurants and bars.

Dennis Nafus of Edgewood, who leads the Northern Kentucky Smoke Free Coalition, said he will attend Northern Kentucky fiscal court meetings to show local government representatives “we’re not going to go away.” He attended Kenton Fiscal Court on Tuesday to address the county commissioners about costs of smoking on taxpayers.

In Northern Kentucky, only Kenton County has a smoke-free law, and it allows exemptions for dozens of drinking establishments and private clubs.

Nafus thinks the new survey information could convince Kentucky legislators to restrict smoking statewide in 2015.

“We’re going to use it to educate our legislators about what the people in Northern Kentucky want as far as legislation,” Nafus said. “Here’s what your constituents want: They want smoke-free legislation.”

He also plans to stand with Gov. Steve Beshear on Smoke-Free Advocacy Day on Feb. 11 in Frankfort to advocate for legislation that would restrict smoking statewide.

Across the United States, 24 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have laws that require restaurants, bars and non-hospitality workplaces to be smoke-free, advocates say.

Read the article online.