Smoking Ban Restores Right to Breathe Clean Air

Share

HERALD-LEADER | OP-ED | MARCH 2, 2015

The science is clear. Tobacco smoke is deadly — to smokers and to all of us who share the air. As a result, too many Kentuckians are working in unhealthful environments.

The economics are clear as well. In Kentucky, secondhand smoke kills nearly 1,000 citizens a year and costs us almost $130 million a year in health-care expenses.

The facts of health, science and economics make it clear that it’s time to say yes to the Kentucky Smoke-free Act.

Kentucky, after all, leads the nation in tobacco-related death and disease. We can do better than that.

Other states, including those with tobacco traditions as deeply ingrained as ours, have enacted statewide smoke-free public policy to improve the health of their citizens.

Prohibiting smoking in public buildings and workplaces isn’t about taking away business rights. It’s about restoring a very important one — the right to breathe healthy air at work and in shared public places.

And that’s not just me speaking as a nurse practitioner whose research focus is on tobacco-free health.

A recent public poll shows a full 66 percent of adults in Kentucky support a statewide smoke-free law. The bipartisan support for the Kentucky Smoke-free Act is both heartening and hopeful.

It reminds me of a story I heard when I first came to the University of Kentucky as the new nursing dean.

How, a little more than 50 years ago, a group of brave and forward-thinking Kentucky legislators from both sides of the aisle decided to put aside their differences and link arms to meet a critical health care need for their constituents.

Together, they found the will and the funds to establish a medical school and nursing program that would produce more quality health-care professionals for Kentucky as well as path- breaking research into the challenges that confront our state.

Today, UK is home to nationally recognized academic programs that are preparing the next generation of leaders for our state in medicine, nursing and health services.

As in the past, the decisions we make today will resonate for generations.

The decisions we make today, in fact, can save lives tomorrow. Put public health first and say yes to the Kentucky Smoke-free Act.

Janie Heath is dean of the University of Kentucky College of Nursing.