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State Rep. introduces statewide ban legislation

Publication Date: 2012-01-20
  • Publication:Bowling Green Daily News

State Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, introduced legislation Thursday that would ban smoking in nearly all indoor places across the state.

It's the second year Westrom has introduced such legislation. But she told reporters in Frankfort during a news conference Thursday she feels this year's version is much stronger, according to The Associated Press.

The bill would ban smoking indoors everywhere except private residences. However, residences that have businesses in them, such as day cares, would be included in the ban.

State Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, said he's consistently opposed to the idea of a statewide ban.

"It's something that if it's going to be done, it needs to be done at the local level," DeCesare said.

State Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said he hadn't yet had a chance to look at the bill, but he wanted to see what is exempt and what isn't before taking a position.

"I do think there's some advantages to having a statewide ban rather than just a hopscotch situation with some counties and some cities," Richards said. "People don't know going from one community the next which ones do have bans and which ones don't."

Betsy Janes, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association, isn't sure why it's taken so long for the state to pass a statewide ban.

"It's unfortunate that Kentucky politicians at either the state or local level think this is so controversial," Janes told the Daily News. "Most people support it at any level ... it makes sense. Seventy-five percent of us are nonsmokers. People really do care about their own health. I'm kind of perplexed as to why this hasn't happened sooner, because it's a win-win."

Jim Waters, vice president of policy and communications for the Bluegrass Institute in Bowling Green, said his organization is opposed to government telling private property owners that they can't allow a legal activity on the property.

"The health nannies want to talk about improving the health of Kentucky, but a majority of restaurants have already put a ban in place without any legislation," Waters said.

Also released Thursday was the American Lung Association's grades for tobacco control.

Kentucky received an "F" rating for its tobacco prevention control and spending.

"We haven't provided enough funding to help people quit," Janes said. "We have made some progress, but using the few resources we have, we haven't done any of the major policy solutions that really help people quit."

Kentucky also received an "F" for its lack of statewide smoking restrictions, something Westrom hopes to change.

"I am not asking people not to smoke," Westrom said, according to The Associated Press. "Smoking is perfectly legal. I'm just asking them to step outside."

Bowling Green passed its own smoking ban last year, and the proposed state legislation appears more restrictive than the city's ordinance. According to The Associated Press, the ban would include private clubs, which the city's does not.

Bowling Green's smoking ordinance had come under fire for lacking exemptions for veterans organizations and their facilities.

Under the state legislation, smoking at country clubs and veterans organizations would be illegal.

The bill does state that local municipalities could make their local ordinances more restrictive than the state's, but it does not say cities could make their laws less restrictive at a local level.

Waters said he thinks it's wrong for the state to pass a "one-size-fits-all smoking policy."

"I think it's outrageous that we would have legislators in Frankfort making these decisions, trumping what local cities have already done," Waters said.

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