Statewide smoking ban likely to be discussed

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The Daily News, Bowling Green

A statewide smoking ban will again come before lawmakers when they head back to Frankfort in January, but just how much support such a measure will have is unclear.

“There is no question that it would save the state money in terms of what it pays out for Medicaid,” said state Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green.

Most advocacy groups believe that such laws or individual ordinances reduce smoking overall and thus smoking-related illnesses - particularly those related to secondhand smoke - will decline.

“We certainly are a high-smoking state and that is based on our tobacco-growing tradition,” Richards said. “I could support a statewide smoking ban, depending on how it’s written, because I think it’s one of those laws that right now have a patchwork across the state and people don’t know from one community to the next whether they have one.”

State Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, plans to introduce a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free law in all indoor workplaces, restaurants, bars and other public places in Kentucky.

Westrom previewed her legislation last week to the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare.

”It’s time Kentucky joined the growing number of states that have passed smoke-free workplace laws to protect the rights of all workers and the public to be free from exposure to secondhand smoke,” Amy Barkley, chair of the Smoke-Free Kentucky Campaign, said in a news release.

The coalition of organizations support making all public and workplaces 100 percent smoke-free.

“The momentum at the local level has created a growing demand for a statewide smoke-free law,” Barkley said. “We know from experience here in Kentucky and across the nation that smoke-free laws are good for health, good for business and essential to protecting citizens and workers from the proven hazards of secondhand smoke.”

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is among the organizations supporting a ban.

“Over the last couple of years, our members have stood firmly behind a statewide smoking law,” Dave Adkisson, president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, said in a news release from the coalition. “The attitude in Kentucky is changing toward smoking and the health effects can no longer be ignored. The business community now sees the effects of both smoking and secondhand smoke on our workforces in terms of absenteeism and lost productivity. We also see the effect on our insurance premiums and on our tax bills. Smoking is not only killing us, it is bankrupting us - both in terms of costs to business and cost of government.”