Debate over statewide smoking ban in Kentucky

The Kentucky Legislature is looking at a bill that would establish a smoking ban across the state, impacting all public buildings. The Smoking banIndiana General Assembly also is considering a statewide smoking ban during its current session.

The proposed Kentucky bill, House Bill 193, would prohibit smoking in any indoor public places and establish a distance outside the doors where smoking would be allowed. Fines would be $100 for the first violation and $250 for every other violation. Fines could increase if violations become a persistent problem.

Democratic Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington is sponsoring the bill, which was introduced Thursday. The bill was sent to the Health and Welfare committee the next day. The House is in recess until Feb. 1.

The bill has been introduced in the past and is expected to face more debate. Of the eight-member health committee, five representatives are co-authors of the bill, which suggests the bill will face little resistance getting out of committee.

To pass, the bill would have to go through a second and third reading, along with a vote by the full House. The readings would have to be authorized by Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonburg, who is a co-sponsor of the bill. Given his support for the smoking ban, it is clear the bill will be given a reading and will receive a vote before the full House in the upcoming session. But Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, has already made up his mind on the issue.

“I will be reluctant to vote for it at this time,” Rand said. “I think it’s not quite time for us to have a full-state ban.”

It’s an issue Rand said he would be open to discussing in future sessions. If the bill comes to a vote before the whole House, Rand said he would vote against it.

Smoking is currently allowed in most public buildings in Carroll and Trimble counties, excluding some buildings such as schools. Trimble County Judge-Executive Randy Stevens said in the eight years he has been at the Trimble County Courthouse, he has never seen anyone smoke inside, despite that it is legal to do so. There are spots in front of all the doors where cigarette butts can be left.

Stevens said he tries to stay out of the debate.

“I don’t believe it’s my place or the legislature’s place to tell (people) what they can and can’t do,” Stevens said.

If a smoking ban were put in place, it would have an influence on residents of Kentucky. Studies have shown that more than one- quarter of all adults in the state smoke cigarettes. A 2008 survey by the Kentucky Incentives for Prevention showed more than half of all seniors at Carroll County High School had tried cigarettes and 28 percent used them regularly.

The major issue in this debate is second-hand smoke and the rights of people who do not want to be around smoke. The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare and Bloomberg Philanthropies recently studied second-hand smoke issues. They found that more than 40 percent of children and more than 30 percent of all non-smoking men and women breathe in second-hand smoke.

There are 600,000 people worldwide who die every year from second-hand smoke, which is about 1 percent of the world’s total deaths. There are about 5.1 million additional deaths from smoking itself.

According to the University of Kentucky HealthCare, Kentucky has the third-highest adult smoking rate in the country. It also has the highest number of deaths from smoking-related illnesses. Twenty-seven percent of pregnant women in Kentucky smoke during pregnancy, which is almost twice as high as the national average.

In Kentucky:

• 18 percent of homes with children have an adult who smokes

• 20 percent of homes with children have allowed smoking in the home in the past 30 days

• 46 percent of homes with children have at least one adult who thinks secondhand smoke is not a health risk

The area has had a long history of tobacco production. Old news reports from The Associated Press from the 1910s said this area produced around 1,700 pounds of tobacco for every acre of land and would be sold for 45 cents a pound.

In 1979, Kentucky ranked second among all states in the production on tobacco, second only to North Carolina. Tobacco production has seen a dramatic decline in the area since then.

Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson has considered a countywide smoking ban in the past, but has been hesitant because “tobacco and the tobacco industry have always been good to this part of the country.”

Though Tomlinson is a smoker and he often smokes in his office in the courthouse, he has no problem with the thought of a smoking ban. While he worked at General Butler State Resort Park, Tomlinson, said he banned smoking in the offices due to allergies of an employee. General Butler has since become entirely smoke-free.

Tomlinson said he has rarely heard any complaints about smoking indoors and residents don’t seem to mind, either. Mike Cutshaw, 62, of Carrollton, has been smoking since he was 16 and said he has no major health problems. He doesn’t like the idea of a smoking ban on public businesses.

“I just don’t agree with the way they’re forcing everyone to do something,” he said.

Cutshaw said he worked in chemical plants and would constantly breathe in harmful chemicals, but is irked that government doesn’t try to make any chemical plants safer.

“Compare the particles they’re putting in there and what they’re putting in their lungs with cigarettes. I guarantee it’s 10 times worse. But they never talk about that,” he said.

Pauline Poindexter, 82, of Carrollton, has never smoked, but she has been around it her whole life. Her father used to smoke and her husband smoked before he died. The only health problems she has are cholesterol-related. She said a ban doesn’t make much sense.

“I don’t think someone should be told they shouldn’t do something if it’s legal,” she said.

Contact your local Kentucky legislators
Below is the contact information for the local legislators from Carroll and Trimble counties. If you feel strongly about this issue, call them and voice your opinion.

Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford
702 Capitol Ave.
Annex Room 366B
Frankfort, KY 40601
Office: (502) 564-8100 ext. 619
Fax: (502) 564-6543
E-mail: [email protected]

Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Crestwood
702 Capitol Ave.
Annex Room 204
Frankfort, KY 40601
Office: (502) 564-8100 ext. 605
Fax: (502) 564-0776
E-mail: [email protected]

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