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HARLAN DAILY | THE NEWS-ENTERPRISE | JANUARY 27, 2015

There should be no question about the health risks associated with tobacco smoke.

Studies reveal time and again the devastating toll the habit inflicts within the bodies of those who choose to smoke. Heart disease, lung cancer, stroke and a long list of other serious chronic illnesses and disease have been documented as far more likely among smokers than for the general public.

But for those who don’t smoke, these risks are no less serious when exposed to the secondhand smoke emitted by those who do.

According to the Centers for Disease Control andPrevention, the risk for heart disease increases 25-30 percent for nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke. And exposure to exhaled tobacco smoke increases the chances of lung cancer for the nonsmoker by 20-30 percent. The CDC reports 2.5 million nonsmokers have died since 1964 as a result of illness caused by secondhand smoke exposure.

Many will position protection of personal freedom in their opposition to any restrictions to smoking in public. However, the possibility of a comprehensive smoke-free law boils down to a simple fact.

It is a matter of public health.

According to a report titled “The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke” published by the U.S. Surgeon General, eliminating smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke. The most effective way to achieve this is through public policy. A growing majority of Kentuckians agree.

The Kentucky Health Issues Poll conducted late last year reports nearly 66 percent of Kentucky adults favor a state law that would prohibit smoking in most public places including workplaces, public buildings, offices, restaurants and bars. That supporting sentiment has grown from just 48 percent in 2010.

Nonsmokers in Kentucky deserve the protection a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law would provide in eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke in public places.

It’s time to clear the air for Kentuckians in all communities across our state, not just the one-third of those that have smoke-free public ordinances in place.

This General Assembly must accomplish what past legislative sessions have failed to do. Pass House Bill 173.

Read the article online.