Kentucky Smoke-Free Advocates See Indiana Law as Cautionary Tale

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PUBLIC NEWS SERVICE | GREG STOTELMYER | JULY 28, 2015

Indiana has had a statewide smoking ban for three years – but it exempts bars, casinos and private clubs.

Now lawmakers in the Hoosier state are debating whether the law should be strengthened to protect everyone, and health groups in Kentucky are hoping to make an example of Indiana’s watered-down law. Ellen Hahn, director of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy, says it stands as a cautionary tale.

“The main message is we need to do it right the first time,” she says. “We need to wait until we can get good, strong, comprehensive laws, because we’ve learned that these laws kind of stick.”

A bill to prohibit smoking in all workplaces and public places in Kentucky passed the House earlier this year, but died in a Senate committee.

Noting Kentucky’s high rate of disease and death from tobacco smoke, Hahn says the push for a comprehensive law is a “common sense thing.”

“We’re just simply saying, ‘take it outside,'” says Hahn. “That is a compromise position. We’re not saying people can’t smoke outside, or at home, or in their cars, not that that’s a good thing to do.”

Local smoke-free laws currently cover about one-third of Kentucky residents, and that’s where some lawmakers who voted against a statewide ban want the decision to remain.

As for the Hoosier state, Brianna Herndon of the Indiana American Cancer Society Action Network says the statewide law has been a step in the right direction, but she admits bar and casino workers came up losers.

“There are some people that have the capability of going to work every day and not having to worry about the health risks associated with the secondhand smoke they’re exposed to,” she says. “Then there are other workers that don’t have that same luxury, and have to choose between their health and a paycheck.”

Opponents of changing the law argue people can choose not to work in places where smoking is allowed.

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