FRANKFORT — State workers will have to put out their cigarettes starting Nov. 20.
Gov. Steve Beshear announced Thursday that the state would ban the use of cigarettes and all other tobacco products, as well as e-cigarettes, on most state property effective Nov. 20.
That means employees and visitors won't be able to light up or chew tobacco in state-owned or state-leased buildings, in state-owned vehicles or on state property — including parking lots, sidewalks and green space under the control of the executive branch of government.
The policy affects 2,888 state-owned buildings, making more than 26.4 million square feet tobacco-free, Beshear said at a Capitol news conference with Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson and other state officials.
The state also leases space in 568 other structures, and the Finance Cabinet will work with those landlords to post signs indicating the tobacco-free zones.
Beshear said there were a few exceptions to his executive order: state parks, the Kentucky Horse Park, the Kentucky State Fairgrounds, Bluegrass Station, wildlife management areas, state rest areas, Department of Military Affairs training centers and armories, and certain state residential health centers.
The order does not apply to universities, but Abramson said all universities except Western Kentucky and Murray State already have some form of tobacco limits.
Beshear also has no authority to ban smoking on property overseen by the judicial and legislative branches of government, or constitutional officers, but he said he encouraged all of them to follow his example as well as local government facilities, public and private school districts and businesses.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the order was Beshear's prerogative, and he said he would review how the legislative branch would respond to it. House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, had no immediate comment.
The state Administrative Office of the Courts, which assists the judicial branch and is based in Frankfort, already is a tobacco-free campus.
In judicial centers that are 100 percent occupied by the courts, smoking policies are set at local levels by the chief circuit judges. In facilities where the courts share space with others, such as county government offices, chief circuit judges may set policies for only the courts-occupied parts of the buildings.
All constitutional officers except Agriculture Commissioner James Comer have told Beshear they will abide by the ban, the governor said. Comer's office did not reply to a call seeking comment.
Kentucky is the fifth state to adopt such a policy. The others are Delaware, Oklahoma, Oregon and South Dakota.
State government is the largest employer in Kentucky, and the tobacco-free rule will affect about 33,000 state workers, plus hundreds of thousands of visitors to state offices and properties.
Beshear said he thought most people would adhere to the ban and there would be no need for any "tobacco police" to enforce it.
If people do not follow it, he said, disciplinary action might be considered.
Beshear said he chose Nov. 20 to start the ban because it's the date of the annual Great American Smokeout, an event sponsored by the American Cancer Society to encourage Americans to stop smoking.
Kentucky has the worst state ranking for smoking and cancer deaths, the governor said.
"Tobacco products have a deadly grip on thousands of Kentuckians," he said. "Smoking and tobacco use are the single biggest causes of preventable illness and death in our state.
"This policy will protect nonsmokers from the effects of secondhand smoke, and encourage tobacco users to seek help in quitting."
Nearly 5,000 executive branch state workers report they use tobacco, and their health care costs average 20 percent more than those who do not report tobacco use, Beshear said.
Currently, all executive branch buildings in Kentucky are smoke-free inside because of an executive order in 2006 under then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Beshear's order expands that policy.
Temporary signs advising the new tobacco-free standard were posted Thursday on the entrances of all executive branch buildings. Permanent stickers will be placed on doors and driveways leading to the buildings on Nov. 20.
Beshear said he did not contact tobacco companies before making his decision. A spokesman for Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, declined to comment.
Susan Zepeda, president of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said in a statement that Beshear's order underscored recent polling that showed more than 65 percent of Kentuckians favored a statewide smoke-free law and 84 percent favored tobacco-free school campuses.
She said nearly 8,000 Kentuckians die each year from tobacco-related illnesses.
Tonya Chang, director of government relations for the American Heart Association, praised Beshear's order and pledged to continue to work with him for a statewide smoking ban in the workplace and public places.
Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.