FRANKFORT — A legislative panel approved a measure Thursday that would ban smoking inside public places across Kentucky.
House Bill 190 would protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke while allowing people to light up outside, said state Rep. Susan Westrom, sponsor of the measure.
This is the second year that the House Health and Welfare Committee has passed a statewide smoking ban sponsored by Westrom, D-Lexington. Gov. Steve Beshear has backed the initiative, and he mentioned HB 190 on Wednesday in his State of the Commonwealth speech.
The proposal has never been voted on by the full House, and it would probably have a rough road in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said that the government shouldn't tell businesses they cannot regulate smoking on their own property.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he supports the measure and that sponsors are working to see whether the bill has enough votes to pass the House.
"I think they're close," Stumbo said.
Republican Rep. Julie Adams of Louisville, a co-sponsor of HB 190, said 300 organizations have backed the Smoke-Free Kentucky initiative, and polls show that the majority of registered voters support a statewide smoking ban.
Twenty-nine states have passed statewide smoking bans, and 24 have passed bans that are similar to HB 190, she said. And 22 communities in Kentucky have passed smoke-free ordinances, Adams said.
"This is a mainstream issue," Adams said. "The Kentucky General Assembly is way behind the general public."
Four Republicans on the committee had reservations about the proposal, saying they had difficulty balancing the need to protect public health with the need to protect the rights of businesses and individuals.
Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown; Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington; Rep. Ben Waide, R-Madisonville; and Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Burlington, ultimately did not vote on the legislation. The measure passed 11-0.