Herald-Leader Editorial

Kentuckians want a smoke-free law; Senate must not snuff out legislation

February 12, 2014 

Voters are way ahead of the General Assembly when it comes to clearing the air of toxic cigarette smoke in places where Kentuckians work and congregate.

A recent Bluegrass Poll found that 57 percent of registered voters are in favor of legislation that would ban smoking in enclosed public places statewide.

Support was highest in Louisville, Central and Northern Kentucky. But in every region a majority of voters supported taking smoke-free statewide.

Republicans were as likely as Democrats to support a statewide smoking ban.

This broad and deep support makes perfect sense in a state that has, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation's highest smoking-related death rate.

Yet, the Senate's Republican leaders have relegated smoke-free legislation to a committee where, from all appearances, they expect it to burn out like an unattended cigarette.

The sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, chairs the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, the logical place to consider legislation aimed at protecting Kentuckians from having their health compromised and lives shortened by breathing secondhand smoke.

Yet, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, who has said he opposes Senate Bill 117, assigned it to the Judiciary Committee of which he is a member rather than to sponsor Denton's committee.

A companion bill, House Bill 173, sponsored by Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, cleared the House Health and Welfare Committee last week but has since been gummed up with a floor amendment exempting cigar bars.

That state legislation could become a vehicle for weakening comprehensive local smoke-free laws has always been a risk. But experience in Lexington, Louisville and dozens of other Kentucky places shows that the fairest approach — the one that can best withstand legal challenges — is treating all workplaces the same.

Kentucky is lagging far behind in protecting its people from smoking's harms. In a state that's been economically addicted to tobacco, it's a proud accomplishment that enough local governments have enacted smoking bans that a third of Kentuckians are now protected.

But nationally two-thirds of Americans live in places that have protections from secondhand smoke.

Why do Senate leaders want Kentucky to keep killing itself?

Smoking ban poll results

A bill in the Kentucky General Assembly would ban smoking in bars, restaurants and other businesses throughout the state. Do you favor or oppose such a law?

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