KENTUCKY (5/24/13) - Smoking is definitely not as popular as it used to be. Federal and state laws, and local ordinances in more recent years, have banned the once-widespread habit just about everywhere, from commercial flights to college campuses.
Yet in Kentucky, where smoking is banned in state buildings and in enclosed workplaces, restaurants, and bars in over three dozen localities, opponents of a statewide ban have successfully kept such legislation from passing the Kentucky General Assembly. The latest attempt was during the 2013 regular legislative session, when a bipartisan effort to outlaw smoking in enclosed public places and enclosed workplaces statewide failed to pass.
Supporters of a statewide ban--including the organization SmokeFree Kentucky--are now spending the rest of this year trying to increase awareness of why they say a ban is necessary. And first and foremost in their argument is data on the dangers of secondhand smoke, which Dr. Goetz Kloecker, director of the Thoracic Oncology Clinic and the University of Louisville Brown Cancer Center, said back in 2011 “causes death and disease. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even brief exposure puts a person at risk for a heart attack or asthma attack.”
Banning smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces across Kentucky would, according to the SmokeFree Kentucky campaign, “ensure that all Kentuckians have the right to breathe clean, smoke-free air in public places and at work.” It would also save lives, supporters say, by preventing diseases like lung cancer. But before a statewide smoking ban has a real chance at passage in the Commonwealth, groups like SmokeFree Kentucky need to not only educate the public about the dangers of smoking and second hand smoke, but ensure those who do smoke that a statewide ban will not rob them of their personal freedom.
If a statewide smoking ban is ever passed, smokers will still be allowed to smoke in Kentucky. That is the truth. Smokefree laws in this country and this state do not prevent smokers from smoking where there are no restrictions such as private homes, personal automobiles, boats, taking a walk on a public sidewalk, or in any number of designated public smoking areas in parks or other places. Smokers and those who support smokers’ rights need to know this.
Also, Kentucky businesses must be reassured by proponents for smoke-free workplaces and enclosed public places that smoking bans can actually help their bottom line. That is apparent based on a recent statement from the Building Owners and Managers Association--which says going smoke-free reduces business cleaning and maintenance costs--and by data in a 2000 report from the U.S. Surgeon General that says smoke-free businesses reduce potential legal liability from nonsmokers hurt by secondhand smoke who “have won lawsuits and disability claims against their employers under a variety of legal remedies.”
As your State Representative, I act on legislation based on how you, the voters in the district, want me to vote. I leave my personal opinions out of it. But first, I need to know where you stand on a particular issue. This time, I need to know your stance on a statewide smoking ban.
Do you support a statewide ban on smoking in enclosed workplaces and enclosed public places, including restaurants, and bars? Or do you believe smoking bans are policies that should continue to be set at the local level in Kentucky? I need to know.
I look forward to hearing from you. Have a great week.
Please share your ideas with me by e-mailing
. You can also send me a letter addressed to: Rep. Brent Yonts, Capitol Annex, Rm. 366 A, 702 Capital Ave., Frankfort KY 40601.
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