By Kristian Wagner
Kentucky ranks first in the nation for new cases and deaths from lung cancer.
From 2005 to 2009, our lung cancer death rate was 46 percent higher than the U.S. rate.
A comprehensive smoke-free law is one of the most effective ways to lower the cancer risk of an entire population. In addition to future health benefits, communities see immediate gains from smoke-free laws, such as lower smoking rates, fewer heart attacks and asthma emergency-room visits.
Passing smoke-free laws have been shown to help smokers quit smoking and keep others from starting to smoke. Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in non-smokers. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
Therefore, the Kentucky Cancer Consortium — a statewide coalition of more than 55 organizations — supports House Bill 190. The bill, as originally written, would provide the most complete protection from secondhand smoke than any other smoke-free workplace law in the country.
Currently, 34 percent of Kentuckians are covered by local smoke-free ordinances or regulations. It is essential that all Kentuckians are given the same protection in workplaces and public places.
Against that backdrop, e-cigarettes should be included in what is prohibited in public places, as they emit formaldehyde, a known chemical that increases the risk of cancer to anyone exposed to it.
E-cigarettes are not a proven or approved product to help people quit smoking and should not be exempted from HB190. In order to protect the most Kentuckians, any smoke-free policy should be comprehensive to provide the most health benefits possible.
The evidence for the health benefits of smoke-free public places is strong and unequivocal.
Kristian Wagner is the policy, systems and environmental change director of The Kentucky Cancer Consortium.