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News Summary

Statewide smoking ban sought in Kentucky

Publication Date: 2011-01-06
  • Author:Laura Ungar
  • Publication:Louisville Courier-Journal

A bill scheduled to be introduced in the General Assembly today calls for a smoking ban across Kentucky, where residents smoke at the nation's highest rate and tobacco-related illnesses exact a heavy toll.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, would ban smoking in all indoor workplaces with at least one employee, including restaurants, bars and private clubs. It's supported by a coalition of local, state and national health advocates called Smoke Free Kentucky.

“We feel like the time has come to make sure everyone across the state is protected,” said Amy Barkley, a director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “There's absolutely no reason for anyone to be exposed to secondhand smoke.”

“Secondhand smoke is not just an annoyance; it's a known cause of premature death and disease in non-smokers,” Westrom said. “No one should have to choose between their health and a paycheck. Smoke-free policies are an easy way to solve a serious public health problem.”

But the bill is sure to be controversial in a state with a strong tobacco legacy and where 25.6 percent of adults smoke. Kentucky ties with West Virginia for the nation's highest adult smoking rate, and a 2009 federal survey showed that 59 percent of Kentucky high schoolers have tried cigarettes.

Kentucky also consistently ranks among the top states for lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Some Kentuckians with health problems said they'd welcome a statewide smoking ban.