Advocates of indoor-smoking bans are beginning to make inroads in south-central Kentucky, where efforts to pass such ordinances had gone begging until this year.
The city council in London voted 4-2 Monday night for a comprehensive rule barring smoking in all workplaces, including restaurants.
The vote makes London the second city in the region to adopt an indoor smoking ordinance.
Campbellsville approved an indoor smoking ban in June that will take effect in September, said Mayor Brenda Allen.
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Since Lexington approved the first indoor smoking ban in Kentucky in 2003, 20 more cities, counties and health departments have passed rules to limit indoor smoking in public places, but that didn't include any in the southern part of the state until the votes in Campbellsville and London.
The city commission in Bowling Green voted down a proposed indoor smoking ban, and the board of the 10-county Lake Cumberland District Health Department last year refused to pass a resolution supporting efforts to ban smoking in public places.
Ellen Hahn, director of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy at the University of Kentucky, said the vote in London is significant because it will send a message in the region that government must protect workers' health from the dangerous effects of secondhand smoke and that indoor smoking bans are acceptable.
Hahn said there is interest across Kentucky in indoor smoking bans.
"I think we're just building more and more demand for local control," she said.
London is the 23rd place in the state to approve rules limiting indoor smoking in public places, though some are more comprehensive than others, according to the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy.
In Eastern Kentucky, the Prestonsburg City Council approved on first reading an ordinance banning smoking in all public places last month. In an attempt to limit government "intrusion" into private life, councilman B.D. Nunnery last week proposed numerous amendments and exemptions, most notably for any restaurant or workplace that serves only adults 18 and older.
The second reading of the ordinance was tabled until Monday. Some Eastern Kentucky cities, including Paintsville and Pikeville, have at least partial smoking bans inside city limits.
Vocal opponents of a smoking ban in Prestonsburg have been owners and beneficiaries of charitable gambling at a bingo hall in town. Smoking and bingo go hand-in-hand, they say, and banning smoking would push bingo outside the city limits and damage revenues to school booster clubs and the county animal shelter.
The debate over banning smoking in workplaces often revolves around health issues versus the right of business owners to decide whether to allow smoking.
Nancy Vaughn, one of two London council members who voted against the ordinance, said the decision to allow smoking should be left to business owners.
"My biggest concern is just imposing on private enterprise," Vaughn said.
However, longtime London council member Bill Dezarn said he and others were concerned about the need to protect workers and non-smokers.
"It was a health issue," Dezarn said.
If a business allows smoking indoors, employees don't have a choice about whether to breathe secondhand smoke, and they often don't have the opportunity to get other jobs, advocates of smoking bans say.
And those advocates point out that businesses already operate under a range of rules, such as electrical codes and health standards, aimed at protecting public health and safety.
It's clear that workers and patrons at businesses that allow smoking are exposed to secondhand smoke, said Allen, the Campbellsville mayor.
During the debate over the indoor-smoking law there, the health department tested air in nine restaurants and found air quality at most was not what it should be, Allen said.
"No matter how careful you are about segregating it" with non-smoking areas, "you're still getting that smoke," Allen said.
Restaurant and bar owners sometimes express concerns that indoor smoking bans will hurt business, but Scott Smith, co-owner of Shiloh Roadhouse in London, said he thinks the new rules will be beneficial.
For instance, he anticipates being able to cut costs by not having to staff separate smoking and non-smoking areas. Non-smokers will appreciate being able to get a table more quickly, Smith said.
Smith is planning outdoor patio areas for smokers, which the London ordinance allows.
Studies have found that smoke-free laws don't have an adverse economic effect on restaurants and bars, according to the American Lung Association.
Larry Bryson, the city attorney for London, said the new smoking ordinance will become effective when it is published later this week or early next week. Employers will then have up to 60 days to put it in place.